A jury has ordered former WJBK (Detroit) Anchor Charles Pugh to pay a former Detroit Public Schools student $250,000 bucks.
The student claimed that the former Anchor and former City Council President offered him money in exchange for a sex video.
In a split verdict, the jury dismissed a sexual harassment claim brought by the former student against Pugh, but found Pugh liable for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress in the civil case.
The young man, now 20, met Pugh in the Charles Pugh Leadership Academy program at DPS in 2012 when he was 17 and Pugh was council president.
The former student, who was present in court and identified as K.S., claims Pugh harassed and convinced him to produce a sex video, and offered cash for oral sex after spending a year grooming the student during the mentorship program.
The jury spent five days hearing from attorneys about allegations that centered around whether the teen was a consenting adult or victim when Pugh sent him explicit texts asking the teen to make a sex video for cash.
William Seikaly, who represents the young man known as K.S., had mixed reaction to the split verdict. Seikaly had asked the jury for $1.5 million in damages.
Last week, Detroit Public Schools agreed to pay the former student $350,000 to settle its portion of the lawsuit, making the total award $600,000.
“It wasn’t a huge verdict. I think (Pugh) will go out tonight and celebrate with his buddies. That’s too bad,” Seikaly said after the verdict. “The process was wonderful for (K.S.). He saw people stand up for him.”
Marc Deldin, Pugh’s attorney, said he respected the jury’s verdict but refused to answer questions outside the courthouse about Pugh and how he would pay the award.
Pugh was never criminally charged in the matter but fled Detroit to New York in 2013 once media coverage of the allegations intensified.
The jury did not find Pugh responsible for sexual harassment because they believe the activity between the teen and Pugh occurred outside the school year, Seiklay said after speaking to jurors.
Seikaly said he hopes the Wayne County prosecutor will investigate to consider charges.
“There is no question he is guilty. He should be prosecuted for that,” Seiklay said.
Seikaly held up papers containing more than 450 text messages between Pugh and the teen, telling the jury that it heard Pugh lie and contradict himself in two video depositions in the case.
“This is the real Charles Pugh,” Seikaly said holding up pages of texts to the jury. “This is it.”
Pugh did not attend the trial. Seikaly told the jury that Pugh testified in a video deposition taken Oct. 27 that he regretted his behavior. But in several text messages sent in 2013, Pugh tells the teen to erase all the messages and begged the teen not tell anyone anything about the exchanges or “this will bring down everything I’ve worked to do” to help Detroit.
“He didn’t want to face you. ... It was Charles Pugh who did these disgusting things. He says he regrets his behavior. He regrets getting caught. That’s what he regrets,” Seikaly said.
Deldin told the jury Pugh has never been criminally charged, information that had not come out during the trial. Rather, Deldin said, the case was about two consenting adults who regretted their decision.
“This wasn’t about (K.S.) being powerless. He had something Charles Pugh wanted. ... They both made voluntary decisions and they both have to deal with the consequences,” Deldin said.
Deldin, who referred to Pugh as a coward who failed the teen, said the texts were disturbing but that K.S. had the ability to say no to them and to Pugh. Deldin said it was terrible that K.S.’s family chose to disown him after learning of the allegations and presuming, incorrectly, that the teen was gay, but that Pugh never meant harm.
“It was not his intent to harm (K.S.), it was to sexually satisfy his desires,” Deldin said
H/T Detroit News