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Associate professor at BYU charged with sexual abuse

BYU professor Michael James Clay, 45, of Springville, has been charged in Provo’s 4th District Court with two counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. He is accused of sexually abusing one of his students. Photo credit: Brigham Young University

PROVO, Utah — A now-former associate professor at Brigham Young University (BYU) faces charges related to sexual abuse of a student. 

A spokesperson for BYU says Michael James Clay is no longer an employee of the school. She referred all other questions to prosecutors. Clay did not return reporters’ phone calls for comment.

Clay, 45, of Springville, is accused of sexually abusing a student in a program he oversaw at BYU. According to his online bio, obtained by the Deseret News, Clay was in charge of the Urban and Regional Planning program under BYU’s Geography Department. 

Charging documents allege Clay told the victim, who is not native to the United States, “if she trusted him more, he might be able to hire her but that he wanted to wait to see how she improved.” 

Charging documents state the victim said she met with Clay in his office more than 20 times between January and March. She told investigators she saw Clay as a mentor or therapist figure, and he promised to help address her “emotional difficulties.” 

The charging documents describe at least two occasions in which the victim accused Clay of inappropriate physical contact. On one occasion, she said he drove her up a canyon and touched her buttocks through her clothing. 

“[Clay] asked if it was OK,” the document states. “The victim said it was OK because she felt like she had to say yes.” 

At another meeting in Clay’s office, the charges allege Clay had the victim straddle his lap, then asked if she liked it. 

“The victim said she did not and that it kind of hurt,” the charging document said. “[He] said the victim needed to practice and try to connect more.” 

Clay faces two counts of forcible sexual abuse, second-degree felonies, in 4th District Court.