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Former BYU associate professor charged with sexually abusing female student

Michael Clay
Posted at 3:49 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 17:49:25-04

PROVO, Utah — A former associate professor at Brigham Young University is no longer with the university after he was accused of sexually abusing a female student.

Michael James Clay, 45, was charged Thursday with two second-degree felony counts of forcible sexual abuse.

Clay worked in the university's geography department and was in charge of the victim's program of study, a probable cause statement said.

"[Clay] has the authority to hire interns and teaching assistants in connection with this program. [Clay] 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," the statement said.

The woman told police that she confided in Clay of some emotional distress she was having.

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

According to the probable cause statement, the woman estimated that she met privately with Clay more than 20 times, and Clay told her not to tell anyone about the meetings and to delete their text message communications.

"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 [Clay] could help her," the statement said. "On one occasion, [Clay] gave the victim a priesthood blessing. On another occasion, [Clay] told the victim that he had prayed about her and felt inspired from God to engage in physical contact with the victim."

At some point between January 15 and February 15, Clay took the woman up a Utah County canyon in his car and touched her inappropriately, the statement said.

Clay is also accused of touching the woman inappropriately during a meeting in his office and ignoring three expressions from the woman that she did not want to continue before he stopped touching her.

"Afterward, [Clay] asked the victim if she enjoyed it. The victim said she did not and that it kind of hurt," the statement said.