DETROIT (WWJ) – Former Detroit City Council President and TV anchor Charles Pugh was sentenced to a maximum of 15 years behind bars for luring an impressionable young boy into a sexual relationship.
Pugh had been facing up to life in prison on five charges of first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct before accepting a plea deal to two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in exchange for a lighter sentence of 5-and a-half to 15 years in prison. He was sentenced Wednesday.
Before receiving his sentence on Wednesday, Pugh first said thanks for all the prayers and support before issuing an apology to the victim and his family, as well as the city of Detroit and its residents.
“To violate that (trust) was absolutely wrong and I accept full responsibility for my actions at that time. Back then, your honor, I was 31-years-old and in many ways I was young and stupid… and so the way I thought back then is not how I think now. I want to wish (the victim) well, him and his spouse and his family, and certainly I meant him no harm in any way and I believe that he knows that,” said Pugh. “Fourteen years ago I was a journalist who had been back home on TV at that time for about three years and I didn’t really fully understand the gravity of the position I was in, just being that young, making all that money and having tens of thousands of people who believed in me. And I’m sorry.”
The victim did not speak before sentencing. But in a letter read to the court, the victim’s mother called Pugh a “monster” and “fiend,” saying there are not enough years to undo the damage he did to her family and others.
In delivering the sentence, Judge Thomas Cameron said Pugh was a man the public thought they knew and trusted, and he abused that trust in the worst way possible.
“You’re an individual who worked as an anchor in a major television station in metropolitan Detroit that the public believed in and listened to. When there was a case about a public official who abused their position of trust or someone who committed sexual assault on a minor, you or your station was there to report on it,” said Cameron. “What the public didn’t know is at the same time you were reporting on these offenses and violations of the public’s trust, you were committing these crimes yourself.”
Judge Cameron said Pugh used his “celebrity status” to manipulate parents into trusting him with their children although his intentions weren’t always harmless.
“When you had the children’s’ trust, you enticed and in some cases and pressured, at least in the eyes of the victims, to convince them to have sex with you,” he said. “This is reprehensible behavior and a deep violation of the public’s trust.”
As part of Pugh’s sentence, he will have to register as a lifetime sex offender and is prohibited from having any unsupervised contact with minors.
The charges stem from allegations that Pugh had engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with a boy who was 14- and 15-years-old from September 2003 to May 2004.
It’s alleged that the victim met Pugh when he went to Fox 2 studios, where Pugh was working as a reporter and news anchor, with a theater group to perform. Their relationship ended up involving sex tapes, meals at swanky Detroit establishments, a cameo appearance by former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and full-on sex between the teen and Pugh, the now 27-year-old victim testified.
“I was disillusioned from him being a great guy … He was still somebody that I wanted to learn from,” the young man testified, saying he had idolized Pugh as a black, gay man who had made something of himself.
Since the victim first brought charges, several other men came forward, willing to testify that Pugh made sexual advances at them as teens.
The charges are unrelated to another sexual grooming case involving a 17-year-old who sued and collected $250,000 from Pugh. The young man said Pugh made sexual advances while serving as a mentor at Douglass Academy in 2012. The lawsuit claimed Pugh was given extraordinary access to boys, and that the school didn’t do enough to protect students. The Detroit school district settled for $350,000. Pugh was not charged criminally in that case. He abruptly quit city government in 2013 and moved to New York when allegations surfaced, later saying he was embarrassed. He was extradited back to Detroit in July to face charges in the present case.
Pugh will be eligible for parole after serving his minimum sentence. He received credit for 139 days served.