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As Charles Pugh's sentence ends, victims know theirs never will

Ex-city council president served 5 years for sexually abusing minor
Charles Pugh
Posted at 11:30 AM, Dec 22, 2021

IONIA, Mich. (WXYZ) — Charles Pugh, the disgraced former Detroit City Council president and WJBK-TV reporter, was released from state prison Wednesday morning following a 2016 conviction for sexually abusing a minor.

Pugh will be required to wear a GPS tether for six months, according to his parole conditions. He is ordered not to have contact with anyone under 17, unless he receives written permission from their parents and can be subjected to a polygraph at any time, if ordered by his parole agent.

Pugh served just over five years in prison after admitting to sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy while he was still an anchor and reporter at Fox 2 in Southfield.

His victim, Austin Williams, came forward following a 2013 report by 7 Action News that revealed that the then-city council president provided gifts and money to a high school student he mentored through Detroit Public Schools.

Questions about the program from Channel 7’s Ross Jones prompted Pugh to flee the city, ultimately resigning from the city council as Detroit teetered on the verge of bankruptcy.

Text messages would later show Pugh pressured the high school senior to perform sex acts on video, enticing him with money and gifts.

Pugh denied any wrongdoing and falsely blamed the student for the arrangement, prompting Williams to come forward and contact police.

“The shame that he put on myself, on the countless other young men who have dealt with him,” Williams said following Pugh’s guilty plea, “he now has to feel that for the rest of his life.”

The high school student sued Pugh and Detroit Public Schools in federal court, receiving $350,000 in a settlement from the district and another $250,000 from Pugh, as ordered by a jury.

“I’ve always said to you that I think the real hero of the Charles Pugh story was my client’s mother,” said Bill Seikaly, who represented Pugh’s former high school student. “This would have never stopped had she not come forward and called you.”

7 Action News is not naming Seikaly’s client because he says he was the victim of a crime.

“He can let go of his anger toward Charles Pugh himself, but he can’t let go of the feelings that he has for the victims,” Seikaly said. “He knows that none of them sleep well at night, just like he doesn’t.”

But even after Pugh’s sexual exploitation was revealed, his victim was tormented by his peers and on social media. Even today, knowing that his decision to come forward triggered Pugh’s downfall, he’s not sure the torture was worth it, Seikaly said.

“If you ask anyone, they’ll tell you: Oh, we’ve got to protect our minors form these predators. And we know how to do it,” Seikaly said. “But we don’t do it. We don’t encourage people to come forward. We don’t protect people to come forward.”

Pugh could have served another 10 years in prison, but the parole board deemed him ready for release. Seikaly said rehabilitation, not more time behind bars, is all he and his client cares about.

“What kind of counseling did he get?” Seikaly said. “What kind of treatment did he get? Does he have remorse? Real, true remorse for what he did?” he asked.

“Because that’s what’s important to them. (Pugh) spending time in prison in and of itself doesn’t do anything for anyone.”

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at 248-827-9466.