• Charles Pugh. Photo: Michigan Department of Corrections

Charles Pugh Is Set to Be Released From Prison in December: ‘I’ve Learned That the Past Is to Inform Us’ (Exclusive)

The former Detroit City Council President wrote to Pride Source from prison

By |2021-08-20T13:35:12-04:00August 20th, 2021|Michigan, News|

Before Charles Pugh is released from prison on or around Dec. 22, the former Detroit City Council president tells Pride Source exclusively that he has learned from his past mistakes.

“Missteps are to teach us to be wiser people who make better decisions moving forward,” he wrote through prison email.

The news of Pugh’s release came on Aug. 3rd, his 50th birthday. By the time of his release, Pugh will have served the minimum of his five-and-a-half to 15-year sentence.

Back in 2009, Pugh left a high-profile position as anchor and reporter at WJBK Fox 2 to run for Detroit City Council. He won by a landslide and thus became president of the council. He talked of one day parlaying the position into a congressional run. And as an openly gay Black man in his position, he received more widespread attention, appearing in both Time magazine and The New York Times.

But three years into his first term on the council, the mother of an 18-year-old boy was interviewed on camera for a WXYZ Channel 7 news segment wherein she accused Pugh of lavishing gifts on her son in return for sexual favors, giving him cash and an iPod in exchange for a video of the young man masturbating. While no charges were filed at the time, Pugh fled Michigan for New York. In 2015, Pugh’s accuser filed a civil lawsuit and was awarded $250,000.

The following year, in a completely separate case, Pugh was charged by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office with six counts of criminal sexual conduct stemming from an alleged sexual relationship Pugh had with a mentee self-identified as Austin Williams — prior to serving on the council and while still a reporter for Fox 2. Pugh ultimately pled guilty to two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in exchange for prosecutors dropping the three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Pugh tells Pride Source that, five years later, he’s “smarter, stronger, kinder, more patient and understanding.”

“I’m a much better listener, less critical and have finally learned how not to judge people,” he added. “Thank God! More than anything, I’ve learned to make my daily decisions based on this growth and wisdom. Turning 50 has been amazing.”

Though Pugh offered no apologies, he wrote, “There are many who’d like me to be stuck in shame, regret, fear and embarrassment. I’m just not gonna do that. That’s not the purpose of mistakes. Missteps are to teach us to be wiser people who make better decisions moving forward.

“I’ve learned that the past is to inform us not control us,” Pugh continued. “We cannot take any action in the past. We can only move ahead as a better human being. Consequently, I’ve made the necessary adjustments, and am moving forward with character, integrity, clarity, gratitude, and with my head held high just the way God wants it.”

Pride Source reached out to Williams for comment on Pugh’s release, but he declined to speak on the matter. In a 2016 op-ed Williams wrote for Pride Source, just after Pugh was sent to prison, he said, “I am not ashamed anymore to share my experience — not if it keeps others from being manipulated by him or others like him. I truly believe it was the right thing to do. I have been living my life with a new perspective. I am trying to actually be the change I want to see, and that means speaking out. It means doing right in the face of wrong.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael joined Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. He has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author for his authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," released on his own JAM Books imprint.