Prosecutor says Charles Pugh behaved like a predator, but that case against him was weak

PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) - In her first interview since choosing not to charge ex-Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh for his conduct with a male student, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper says Pugh's actions were alarming.

"I think it's predatory behavior.  I do think he was very clever," she said. "He waited until [the student] was 18."

Ultimately, Cooper told 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones that the case was far from perfect.

As WXYZ was first to report Friday, Pugh sent hundreds of flirtatious, often graphic and sexually charged text messages to a high school student he mentored at the Frederick Douglass Academy in Detroit. He met the young man when he was 17, but the text messages obtained by police were sent after he turned 18. 

Cooper described the texts as "disturbing."

In one, Pugh told the young man that he finds him attractive.

"truth is: I've had a crush on u all year!!" he wrote. "I just couldn't say or do anything about it until now."

The messages quickly turned graphic and were sent often. Pugh told the student that he'd pay him for taking videos of himself performing sex acts. He said he normally paid $100, but he was willing to up the reward. 

"I pay MORE for solos lol. $125 for solos and $150 if u shoot the vid over here…" he wrote.

He also told the student to delete all the messages and keep their arrangement secret.  

"what we talk about is private.  Becuz if I can really trust u then I really wanna help u ALOT. (thru college and everything). You'll always have money in your pocket," Pugh wrote.

The text messages were sent from Wayne County, meaning they were outside of Cooper's jurisdiction.  The crux of her case rested on an allegation that Pugh made a pass at the young man, touching his inner-thigh at a store parking lot.

According to police, there were no witnesses to corroborate that it ever happened.

"We're dealing with credibility and we're dealing with the fact that he's 18 and we're dealing with the fact that, in this county, we had nothing to pursue," Cooper said. 

"Do you believe that the pass took place?" Jones asked.

"Probably," Cooper responded. "Not strong enough to prove to a jury. Are we going to be able to prosecute anyone who makes a pass?"

Some Detroit Public Schools officials are weighing in on Pugh's conduct.  DPS Board President Lamar Lemmons said if it were up to him, Pugh wouldn't have run a mentorship program inside an all-boys school.

"I objected to his placement at the Frederick Douglass all boys academy because, quite frankly, he's had all these rumors surrounding him for some time," Lemmons said.

But as Cooper reiterated today, rumors don't stand up in front of a jury.  After weighing the case for weeks, she said she and her staff just weren't convinced they could prove that a crime occurred. That doesn't mean that Pugh's behavior doesn't worry her.

"Is it predatory behavior?  Yeah," she said. "Am I concerned he's in New York, working with young people? Yeah.  Can I do anything legally about it?  Not me."

"Someday, somewhere, someone will be able to do that."

Contact 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones at rjones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.

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