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

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Former BYU professor Michael James Clay has been charged with five additional counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony and is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 14. His hearing will be at the 4th District Court Building in Provo, Utah. (Lisi Merkley)

Former BYU professor Michael James Clay has been charged with five additional counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony, and is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 14. 

The former geography department professor was originally charged in June 2020 with two counts of forcible sexual abuse against one student. Two additional students were also victimized, according to court documents, and the actions against those students led to the five additional counts. 

Before the original incidents with the student in early 2020, Clay allegedly met with a student 2-3 times a week between Jan. 2017 and March 2020. According to court documents, the student considered seeing a therapist but Clay told the student she could do that “or she could continue meeting with him because he actually understood and cared for her.”

Clay would have the victim, identified in the court documents as victim 2, straddle him while sitting face to face, the court documents said. The student expressed she was uncomfortable but told investigators Clay would remind her that her progress in her field of study was up to his discretion. 

According to court documents, Clay would also give her priesthood blessings and “use religion to manipulate her into feeling a certain way.”

Former BYU professor Michael James Clay, was originally charged in June 2020 with sexually abusing one of his students. He was charged with an additional five additional counts of forcible sexual abuse on Jan. 14, 2022. (Alison Fidel/BYU)

Three charges come from another student identified as victim 3 in court documents. Similar to the other two alleged victims, Clay would hold counseling sessions with the student. She was an intern and a student who interacted with Clay between Jan. 1, 2018 and Dec. 31, 2019. 

According to court documents, Clay told victim 3 “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.”

The counseling sessions quickly turned into conversations about sexual topics. According to court documents, Clay asked about the student’s previous sexual activities and if she masturbated.

According to court documents, Clay told victim 3 he had counseled other students including one with an eating disorder and one who had been abused by a mission companion. When the student told Clay she would no longer be able to meet over the summer, Clay told her she had to commit, or she no longer needed to come to meetings for her internship. 

According to charging documents, Clay engaged in “ecclesiastical abuse.” Clay told her she was out of spiritual alignment and that she needed to align her “crotch chakra.”

According to the documents, Clay told the student that there were three main influences in her life including her Heavenly Father, mortal father and her husband. Clay told her that since she didn’t have a husband, she was out of balance, but he told the student that he could help with that. 

According to court documents, victim 3 told BYU police that Clay then “touched her in places that no professor ever should.”

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