Charles Pugh's damaging fall from grace

Pugh pleaded guilty Wednesday to 3rd-degree criminal sexual conduct

DETROIT – Wednesday's guilty plea by former Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh closed a painful chapter for the city.

Pugh will serve between 5 1/2 and 15 years in prison for having sex with an underage intern.

The plea completes an astonishing fall from grace for a man who seemingly had it all.

Pugh was 31 years old at the time of the incident. For former colleagues and friends, the plea confirmed the persistent whispers and previously unfounded suspicion that dogged Pugh in the latter stages of his career in Detroit.

Several former victims stood ready to testify in the trial, which is no longer necessary.

Pugh brought broader diversity to the council as the first openly gay man to serve.

"He served to show the positive direction in terms of people choosing candidates based on qualifications," former Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins said. "It's disappointing for everybody who was expecting great things from him."

Pugh was extremely popular. He was the second-most-powerful elected official in Detroit and the leader of a new political generation.

Austin Williams said he is satisfied with the plea agreement. It spares several victims the pain of testifying and he got what he wanted: a very public admission of criminal sexual conduct, something he thinks will prevent future young men from being victimized.

Pugh pleads guilty

Pugh pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to third-degree criminal sexual conduct. The plea deal helped Pugh avoid a possible life sentence. 

He originally was charged with three counts of criminal sexual conduct and two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was arrested this past summer in New York, where he has lived since 2013. He is being lodged at the Wayne County Jail. His bail was set at $500,000 cash. His trial would have been Nov. 7.

Judge Thomas Cameron denied a defense motion earlier this month to quash the charges and a motion regarding a statute of limitations violation argument. He also heard several other pretrial motions.

Local 4 Special: The rise and fall of Charles Pugh

Pugh was elected to Detroit’s City Council in 2009, but quit in 2013.

According to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, Pugh engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with a 14-year-old boy in 2003 when Pugh was a reporter and anchor at WJBK-TV. The two met when the then-teen inquired about an internship at the television station. The boy didn’t intern at the station but was invited to Pugh’s Detroit apartment several times, and the two had contact by phone and text messages, prosecutors said.

TIMELINE: Charles Pugh criminal sexual conduct case

The complainant is now 27 years old.

“It is alleged that Pugh had inappropriate sexual contact with the complainant at his home in Detroit from September 2003 through May 2004,” the prosecutor’s office said. “The complainant was 14 and 15 years of age at the time of the alleged contact.”

Pugh was arrested in New York and extradited back to Michigan, where he was arraigned in Wayne County. 

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