Former BYU associate professor facing 2 charges of felony forcible sexual abuse

Michael James Clay. Photo Courtesy: BYU

PROVO, Utah, June 25, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — A former associate professor at Brigham Young University is facing two counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony.

A probable cause statement from the 4th Judicial District Court of Utah County said Michael James Clay, 45, from Springville, worked in BYU’s geography department.

Officials said Thursday that Clay is no longer employed by the university.

“Between January and March 2020, defendant was the professor in charge of the victim’s program of study at a university,” BYU police wrote in the probable cause statement.

“Defendant has the authority to hire interns and teaching assistants in connection with this program. Defendant told the victim that if she trusted him more, he might be able to hire her but that he wanted to wait to see how she improved. Defendant told the victim that he is very powerful in the victim’s field of study.”

In a meeting with Clay soon after they met, the victim, who is from outside the U.S., expressed to him that she was having some emotional difficulties, the statement said.

“Defendant told the victim that he could make her feel better and make all the negative
feelings go away,” the statement said. “Defendant said he could work on her disorders and the negative feelings and that he could be her emotional and physical support. The victim considered defendant to be a mentor and a therapist.”

The victim estimated that she met with Clay more than 20 times during this time period. Clay would play meditation music during these visits and told the victim that his office was a safe place and that she should not tell anyone what went on there, the statement said.

“Defendant and the victim would communicate via text messages and defendant told the victim to delete the texts between them,” the statement said. “Defendant wanted to check the victim’s phone to make sure she had deleted the texts. Defendant told the victim that she needed to change her body chemistry and that she needed to practice how to be a good wife and that defendant could help her.”

At one point, the victim talked to Clay about meeting with a counselor or psychiatrist. Clay told the victim that meeting with him was more effective but that if she decided to meet with other mental health professionals, he and the victim should stop meeting, the statement said.

In early March, the victim texted Clay to ask if he thought she should get help for her emotional difficulties. He allegedly responded that it was up to the victim but that he thought they were “making good progress” and that “maybe (the victim) should try to see (defendant) more often.” Clay allegedly told the victim that his job was to “help (her) on the inside.”

On one occasion, Clay gave the victim a priesthood blessing, the statement said. On another occasion, he told the victim that he had prayed about her and felt inspired from God to engage in physical contact with the victim, the statement said. He told the victim that he knew that they were supposed to meet and help each other. The victim stated that she believed him at the time.

“Sometime between Jan. 15, 2020 and Feb. 15, 2020, defendant drove the victim up the canyon in Utah County,” the statement said. “After walking outside, defendant and the victim got into the backseat of defendant’s vehicle. The victim stood up part way to adjust the temperature gauge. Defendant touched the victim’s buttocks outside the clothing. The victim was shocked. After defendant rubbed the victim’s buttocks, defendant asked if it was OK. The victim said it was OK because she felt like she had to say yes.”

On or about Feb. 19 or 20, Clay and the victim were meeting in his office in Provo, the statement said. He touched her inappropriately, and she told him to stop three times before he did.

“Afterward, defendant asked the victim if she enjoyed it,” the statement said. “The victim said she did not and that it kind of hurt. Defendant said the victim needed to practice and to try to connect more. Defendant led the victim to believe that this was somehow therapy for past issues.”

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