Pugh Trial: A Recap

By Jason A. Michael

DETROIT - The long awaited Charles Pugh trial - for sexual grooming, as the mainstream media calls it - finally took place last week. Though Pugh, quite noticeably, was absent from the proceedings. Now living in New York, Pugh was not required to appear in person since he currently resides more than 100 miles away from the city.

Though his testimony was show via video tape, it was a risky gamble on Pugh's part not to return to Detroit and face his accuser directly. "He is wrong that his lack of attendance is irrelevant," U.S. District Judge David Lawson wrote in an order excusing Pugh from appearing. "Pugh's voluntary absence from trial -- thereby depriving the jury of one of the tools it might have used to assess his credibility -- is relevant to the issues in this case."

Opening statements were made in the case on Nov. 3. The following day, an announcement was made that the Detroit Public Schools - Pugh's co-defendant in the case - had settled with Pugh's accuser, now 20-year-old Khody Sanford, for the sum of $350,000. This news was met with disdain by at least one former Detroit Public Schools emergency manager named in the case.

"Anytime somebody needs some money, they sue the school system or the city," said former Detroit Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts to the Detroit Free Press. "They can be about crazy kinds of issues that make no sense. And quite often if you do it, you can get paid, and that's quite tragic."

In his videotaped testimony, Pugh admitted he was wrong to have approached Sanford the way that he did, to have sent him the text messages and to have asked for a video of his former mentee masturbating. But he was adamant that Sanford knew exactly what he was doing and that he caused him no harm.

"He's not a minor," Pugh said. "He's an adult. It's not like he's 9 years old. He's grown."

Pugh also adamantly denied ever touching the former student, who had previously claimed Pugh put his hand on his leg while he was sitting in Pugh's city owned sedan.

"I'm positive I did not touch him," Pugh said. "He's wrong. If I touched him, why didn't he say anything? To me? To his mom? It conveniently came up later ... I didn't touch him and he knows I didn't touch him."

In addition to Pugh, others who testified in the trial included the Madison Heights police offer who took Sanford's statement after his attorney convinced him to file a police report and a former colleague of Pugh's from radio station WJLB who claimed Pugh had bragged to her that he could get poor guys to do anything for money.

On Friday, the jury heard from Sanford, as well as from his mother - the one who first alerted the media to the story in 2013 - Tamu Gaines. Sanford testified he was ostracized by friends after the scandal broke and that he was so distraught he wandered the streets for two months eating out of trash cans and washing his clothes weekly in people's swimming pools. "I just walked around, basically, where my feet led me," Sanford said.

Closing arguments in the case took place Monday morning and by the afternoon the case had gone to the jury for deliberation. Sanford's attorney, William Seikaly, asked the jury to award his client at least $1.5 million.

"Anything less than $750,000 and Mr. Pugh will go to some fancy restaurant in Manhattan and have a toast to victory," Seikaly told the jury.

That claim is rather suspect, however. Pugh was last reported to be living in a modest Brooklyn apartment and working as a waiter. No matter the outcome, Pugh's career has been ruined and his earning potential substantially diminished.

The jury in the Charles Pugh civil trial returned late Monday afternoon after just four and a half hours having decided to award Pugh's accuser, Sanford, $250,000 - a sum far less than the $1.5 million Sanford's attorney had asked for. The jury dismissed Sanford's claim of sexual harassment, but having apparently decided to believe Sanford's assertion that Pugh put his hand on his thigh, the jury decided the act constituted battery.

The jury also found Pugh responsible for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Obviously disappointed with the award amount, Seikaly told the Detroit Free Press he believed Pugh would consider the award amount a victory and that Pugh would likely "go out and celebrate."


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