DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The former Detroit City Council President who dropped out of sight last year amid an investigation into an alleged inappropriate relationship with an 18-year-old boy he mentored, is now apparently working as a waiter in New York City.
Ross Jones, an investigative reporter with WXYZ, caught up with Charles Pugh around 2 a.m. Monday in New York as he was leaving his job at a Harlem restaurant.
“It was probably about as intense as you would expect and it lasted for 15 blocks,” Jones said live on WWJ Tuesday morning. “He would not stop and take our questions and have a conversation like we wanted to, but we just kept up with him. It was the first time he’s had to answer any questions about this ever since it happened almost one year ago. This was the interview that he did not want to give for the longest time.”
The teen was 17-years-old when he initially met Pugh, the city’s first openly gay elected official, through the mentoring program at Frederick Douglass High School in Detroit.
A police report unveiled in December said sexually explicit text messages and a video were exchanged between Pugh and the teen, who had been part of the mentoring program that Pugh ran. Evidence included pages of text messages, in which Pugh allegedly offered money if the teen would send him sexually explicit videos.
“I wanna see your body. Front and back. So the video has to show everything,” one message reads. “I pay MORE for solos lol. $125 for solos and $150 if u shoot the vid over here lol,” said another text message.
Police in Madison Heights had sought a fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge against Pugh, but a prosecutor determined there wasn’t enough evidence to take the case to court.
By the time the teen’s family filed a police complaint against Pugh in late June, the popular councilman and former television news reporter had stopped attending council sessions and virtually vanished from Detroit. State-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr denied Pugh’s request for a medical-related leave of absence and stripped him of his pay and title as president.
Pugh, 42, officially resigned in September.
“He left Detroit, literally in the middle of the night,” Jones said. “He went to Seattle, then he went to New York City, changed his phone number and didn’t even tell his friends where he was for a very long time. So, if he doesn’t call that fleeing, I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder.”
Wearing a Yankees ball cap, Pugh showed virtually no remorse as Jones peppered him with questions about his sudden departure from the Motor City.
“Everything he did is in black and white in text messages. What was interesting was that he denied sending anything inappropriate, and once I confronted him with the fact that we had his text messages and read a few to him, then his story started to change,” Jones said.
Pugh was nearly speechless when Ross confronted him with one message that seemed to imply he knew what he was doing was wrong: “If anyone finds out about this, I’m dead. Erase these messages,” Pugh allegedly told the teen.
“Look, Ross, this was a year ago,” Pugh said. “I am dealing with the situation.”
“By the end of it, believe it or not, he was actually blaming the young man involved here, saying that the whole thing was his idea,” Jones said. “Well, it’s clear when you read these text messages that it was Charles Pugh who was pushing this entire idea of sending these extremely graphic videos from the first minute. And he would encourage the young man, even when he said he felt weird about it and he didn’t want to do it, Charles would say ‘Well you know what, don’t you want to have money in college? Don’t you want to be able to buy video games?’ It was truly manipulative and I don’t have a hard time saying it, disgusting.”
As Pugh was insisting his innocence, he was adamant that he didn’t flee Detroit to avoid unwanted attention brought on by the scandal.
“I’m not proud of what we talked about, but the point is that I didn’t force him to do it, I didn’t ask him to do it. And for you to come here and say that I fled, I didn’t flee,” he said.
Pugh also refused to apologize.
“By the end of the interview, he did acknowledge that he had done some things wrong, but he didn’t think he owed anybody, even the city of Detroit, an apology for leaving in the midst of bankruptcy,” Jones said.
As far as his future is concerned, Pugh said a return to Motown just doesn’t fit in his plans.
“He said he’s starting a new life here, he’s working here, he’s a private citizen now and he’s moving on from his time in Detroit,” Jones said.
TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.