CRIME

Former BYU professor charged with 5 more counts of forcible sexual abuse

Jan 25, 2022, 9:17 AM | Updated: 9:36 am
professor sexual abuse...
Former BYU professor Michael James Clay was charged with an additional five counts of forcible sexual abuse on Jan. 14, 2022. Photo: Alison Fidel / BYU

PROVO, Utah — A former BYU professor was charged with two counts of forcible sexual abuse of a student. Then, two other students came forward with allegations. Now, Michael James Clay will face 5 additional charges when he appears in court in February.

Michael Clay was a professor at Brigham Young University. Three of his former students now allege he sexually abused them. The students allege he used religion and his authority as a professor in his abuse and to keep them from telling others. 

Clay is from Springville. He was the head of Urban and Regional Planning in the Geography Department at BYU. In his role with the university, Clay had the ability to hire interns and teaching assistants. 

The first victim

The first victim who came forward with allegations against Clay was a student from outside of the United States. Clay told the student his office was a “safe place,” according to court documents.

They met over a dozen times. When the student brought up the possibility of seeking counseling from a mental health professional, Clay allegedly told the student they should stop meeting if she did this.

On one occasion, Clay reportedly told the victim that he had prayed about her. He said he felt inspired by God to engage in physical contact with the victim.

In winter 2020, Clay allegedly forcibly sexually abused the first student who would come forward with claims. 

The second and third victims

The second student who alleged Clay abused her began working for the former professor in 2017. Clay was in a position of authority over the student as the head of the department she was majoring in and as her boss at his private firm. 

Like the first student’s allegations, the second student claimed Clay would tell her their meetings were a replacement for therapy with a mental health professional. He also allegedly gave the student priesthood blessings and asked her about her sex life. 

When Clay began the alleged sexual abuse, the student claimed she was afraid of refusing because of his power in her field of study and career aspirations. The touching only stopped when their meetings ended with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The third victim also worked for Clay as an intern in 2018 and 2019. 

The student said Clay told her he had “single handedly put together the broken pieces of many girls and that if she wanted to feel Heavenly Father’s love again she would need to come and talk to him in his office.”

As with the claims of the other two students, the third student said these meetings that were under the guise of counseling sessions. During the meetings Clay asked her inappropriate questions; questions about her sex life and masturbation. It was also during these meetings Clay allegedly sexually abused her. 

Seven charges, three similar accounts of sexual abuse from former professor

With the claims of three students, Clay now faces 7 total charges of sexual assault. The first two charges came from statements made by the international student. The added five charges came from the two students who worked for Clay both at BYU and at his private firm. 

Clay is scheduled to appear in court on February 14. 

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Former BYU professor charged with 5 more counts of forcible sexual abuse