For more than a decade, Michael Todd Pegram used several jobs — a counselor at the Kernersville Family YMCA, a volunteer firefighter, a hockey coach and a local DJ — to get access to boys as young as 10 and sexually assault them multiple times in the 1990s and early 2000s, a Forsyth County prosecutor said in court Wednesday morning.
He invited many boys that he met through the YMCA to his home, a violation of the agency’s policy, where he made them lie beside him in bed, watch pornography and perform sexual acts. He told at least one boy that the pornography was about love.
Pegram was formally charged with sexually assaulting eight boys between 1991 and 2001, according to indictments. The boys are now grown, and six of the eight men sat in Courtroom 5A and watched Pegram plead guilty to five counts of first-degree sex offense, one count of attempted first-degree sex offense, one count of statutory sex offense with a child and 21 counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. At the time of his November 2017 arrest in Florida, Pegram was employed at Walt Disney World and was taken into custody in front of one of Walt Disney World’s All-Star resorts.
Judge Stanley Allen of Forsyth Superior Court consolidated many of the charges into two consecutive sentences totaling a minimum of 24 years to a maximum of 30 years and four months in prison. He consolidated another set of charges and sentenced Pegram to three years in prison that Pegram will serve at the same time.
Many of the men told Allen that they were psychologically damaged from the abuse and that it took years of therapy to come to terms with what Pegram did to them. They kept the abuse to themselves, never telling their parents until recently after a criminal investigation started. One man said that soon after he told his mother about the abuse, she committed suicide.
But he also said he forgave Pegram and after he spoke, he hugged several of the men waiting to speak before taking his seat.
Another man said he hasn’t forgiven Pegram.
“He stole my innocence, he stole my childhood, he stole my virginity without my permission,” he said. “If you’re asking for my opinion, send him to prison for the rest of his life because that’s what he deserves.”
Pegram worked as a counselor and a teen director from March 1988 to March 2002, officials at the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina have previously said. Bruce Boyer, former executive director of the Kernersville YMCA, told Kernersville police detectives that Pegram was fired in 2002 after violating YMCA policy. Without approval, he took a group of boys to an all-male revue at a local hotel, Assistant District Attorney Kia Chavious said after court.
She said based on the investigation, it doesn’t appear that YMCA officials were aware that Pegram was sexually assaulting children or that he had groups of young boys over at his house. Employees told police that YMCA officials had been aware that Pegram had taken young boys on non-YMCA locations, a violation, Chavious said. YMCA employees were not allowed to socialize with children outside of the YMCA. Pegram’s personnel records have been destroyed, per policy, so it is not clear if he was ever reprimanded before he was fired in 2002.
The YMCA of Northwest North Carolina sent out a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying it was “saddened to hear and learn what these victims and their families experienced.”
“When the YMCA became aware of these allegations, we launched a third-party investigation to learn as much as it could about the allegations, some of which occurred well over 25 years ago,” the agency said in its statement.
The YMCA said it is committed to “ensuring the safety and welfare of all of our members, especially children.”
reported in 2017
It wasn’t until May 28, 2017 that one of the eight boys, a man now in his 30s, reported Pegram’s abuse of him to the Kernersville Police Department.
He told police he was finally able to come forward after many years of therapy and he was worried that Pegram was continuing to abuse children because Pegram owned MTP DJ Productions, which provided entertainment services for weddings and other events, Chavious said. It was through that business that Pegram came into contact with middle- and high-school-age children.
According to search warrants, the man told police that Pegram sexually assaulted him 40 to 50 times when the man was between the ages of 10 and 16. He alleged that the sexual assaults happened between 1996 and 2002. The man told police that Pegram abused him at Pegram’s house in the 200 block of Adams Street in Kernersville.
Kernersville police also talked to the man’s brother, who also said Pegram sexually abused him, Chavious said.
In many of the cases, Pegram would make young boys lie beside him in bed, force them to watch pornography and then demand that they perform sexual acts.
He would also make the boys perform oral sex on him. Some boys complied and other boys refused. Often, Pegram would threaten to kill the boys’ parents or say the boys were behaving badly if the boys told their parents about the sexual abuse.
Chavious said the sexual assaults not only happened at Pegram’s house; they also occurred at the Kernersville Family YMCA at 1150 W. Mountain St.
Pegram also allegedly sexually assaulted another boy in the shower.
At least one alleged sexual assault happened at Piney Grove Fire Department, where Pegram was a volunteer firefighter.
Search warrants in the case indicated that Pegram may have videotaped some of the sexual assaults. One of the men told police that he remembered video equipment in Pegram’s bedroom, where the alleged sexual assault happened and that he saw Pegram place several cassettes he believed contained evidence of the assaults in a tin box. The tin box was wrapped in duct tape and Pegram buried it in the backyard.
Kernersville police talked to another man who accused Pegram of sexual assault, and that man said he remembered a video camcorder in Pegram’s bedroom.
Chavious said in court that Kernersville police seized numerous tapes but none featured any evidence pertaining to the alleged sexual assaults. Some videotapes were in such poor condition that police could not watch them.
Jones Byrd, Pegram’s attorney, said there’s no excuse for what Pegram did but added that Pegram was going through a dark time when the alleged incidents happened. He said Pegram feels remorse for what he did and agreed to plead guilty so that the men he is accused of assaulting would not have to testify in a trial.
Pegram, dressed in a dark blue jumpsuit, did not say anything before he was sentenced.
Allen said he was particularly disturbed that Pegram was a firefighter, a position of trust.
“This gentlemen is a poster child for a predator, a sexual predator,” he said. “I’m sort of amazed that it was able to go on for so long.”
email@example.com 336-727-7326 @mhewlettWSJ