DETROIT - Charles Pugh, now a convicted sex offender, apologized to his friends and family, the people of Detroit and the minor with whom he had sex more than a decade ago when he spoke during his sentencing today.
“I know I let down a lot of people,” Pugh said while talking publicly for the first time since he was charged criminally earlier this year.
Then Pugh, who has admitted he had sex with a minor, was sentenced to 5½ to 15 years in prison.
“I accept full responsibility for my actions,” Pugh said.
He wore green jail garb as he stood in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit next to his attorney, Delphia Burton, who said Pugh accomplished so much before his fall from grace.
“It’s a sad day,” Burton said. “It really is.”
Her client’s sentencing before Wayne County Circuit Judge Thomas Cameron on Wednesday closes another chapter in the life of Pugh, a once popular TV anchor and Detroit politician.
“You used your celebrity status, and your position of trust, to convince parents to entrust you with their children,” Cameron said, adding that once he had the children’s trust he convinced them to have sex with him.
He called Pugh’s behavior “reprehensible” and a “deep violation of the public’s trust.”
As part of a plea deal reached with prosecutors in the case, Pugh, 45, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He must be on the sex offender registry for life, receive sex offender counseling and not have any unsupervised contact with minors.
Prosecutors agreed to dismiss three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carry a maximum life prison sentence, as part of the deal.
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Bennetts said that when they created the plea agreement, prosecutors took into consideration what would serve as a deterrent to not just Pugh, but other people in the community.
Last month, Pugh told a judge the illegal sex acts occurred on at least two occasions in 2003 and 2004, when he was 31.
Austin Williams, who has spoken publicly and agreed to be identified, previously testified that he met Pugh at the Fox TV (Channel 2) station in March 2003 when Pugh worked there. The two, Williams said, started having sex later that year when he was 14 — too young to legally consent.
Pugh repeatedly told the teen not to tell anybody about the sex acts, saying he could "get in really big trouble," Williams testified.
Williams’ mother wrote a letter that was read to the court today.
“Mr. Pugh wasn’t the decent human being I thought him to be,” she said in her letter. “Mr. Pugh was the monster I warned my children against.”
Pugh, who grew up in Detroit, was raised by his grandmother after the deaths of his parents. Before allegations of inappropriate contact with minors surfaced, Pugh had careers in journalism and politics.
His popularity on TV helped him become the top vote-getter in the 2009 election, propelling Pugh to the position of Detroit City Council president.
Then in 2013, Pugh vanished from the city amid scandal.
A then-high school student, who was slated to testify in Pugh's criminal case before a plea deal was reached, accused Pugh of sexually grooming him during a mentorship program at Frederick Douglass Academy in Detroit.
No criminal charges were filed in that case, but a civil trial ended with a jury ordering Pugh to pay his accuser $250,000.
Pugh was extradited from New York to Michigan this summer after criminal charges were filed against him in the case involving Williams.
Williams, now 28, went to police last year, more than a decade after the alleged incidents. He testified he decided he wasn't going to let Pugh "do this to any other kids."
Detroit Free Press