Former BYU professor heads to court Feb. 14 for 7 counts of sexual abuse
Jan 25, 2022, 11:48 AM | Updated: 3:32 pm
UTAH COUNTY— Michael James Clay, a former BYU professor will go to court Feb. 14 to face seven charges of sexual abuse from 2020.
Clay, 45, of Springville was a professor and formerly head of his field in Urban and Regional Planning in the Geography Department at BYU. He was unemployed by the university in April of 2020 according to the Deseret News.
According to charging documents, Clay abused his power as a professor, head of department, and spiritual leader to manipulate and sexually abuse three different women that were students within his program.
Each of the women had confided in Clay as a professor about some personal or emotional struggles. Clay would encourage the women to continue to meet with him privately instead of a therapist since he was someone that “already cared” about them documents state.
After several meetings, Clay would allegedly engage in some form of physical or sexual contact without consent. Clay followed this pattern of behavior with each of the three victims, reminding them of his power within the program, and convincing them his sexual behaviors were somehow therapy for the things they were going through.
Clay would make the women delete all text messages with him and told one victim his office was, “a safe place and that she should not tell anyone what went on there,” court documents state.
Clay even gave Priesthood blessings, (a prayer given for healing, comfort, or counsel by those with authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,) directing the women what to do and on one occasion, right before attempting inappropriate contact.
Clay told one victim that he had prayed about her and felt inspired from God to engage in physical contact with the victim.
On another occasion court documents state that after inappropriately touching a victim sexually he asked if she enjoyed it. She replied that she did not and he told her she “needed to practice and to try to connect more.”
Many of the victims described fear in saying no to Clay since he would mention how much control he had over their degree and career.
Clay faces seven counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second degree felony.