Ex-BYU professor faces new sexual abuse charges

Three students now allege he used his position as a professor and supervisor to coerce them.

Two more people have come forward to accuse a former Brigham Young University professor of sexual abuse, more than a year after the same man was charged in 2020 with abusing a former student.

Michael James Clay, 47, of Springville, is now charged in 4th District Court with seven counts of forcible sexual abuse, second-degree felonies. Five of the seven counts were added this month.

The now-three reported victims were all Clay’s students, and all reported similar allegations, according to charging documents.

Clay was both their professor and supervised them in non-campus jobs. He initiated private counseling sessions and intimate conversations with them, they said, and he presented himself as a religious leader with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

According to charging documents, Clay “used his position as a university professor, employer, and priesthood holder in the LDS Church to control and manipulate the young women.” Clay is accused of initiating physical contact with them and groping them on multiple occasions between 2017 and 2020, the documents state.

Clay also is accused of threatening the victims with the loss of letters of recommendation and job opportunities if they “gave him a bad student evaluation or reported any bad behavior,” according to the charging documents.

Another BYU professor “stressed the power [Clay] had over his students due to his sole control of the educational program he oversaw and his leverage over students who wanted internships or letters of recommendation.” Clay was in charge of the Urban and Regional Planning in the Geography Department at BYU. His employment at the university ended in April 2020.

Two of the reported victims told police that Clay gave them “priesthood blessings.” One said Clay told her he “felt inspired from God to engage in physical contact” with her; another said he would “use religion to manipulate her into feeling a certain way.”

[Read more: One BYU victim was punished, another was sent to therapy. Advocates say bishops need more training on sex assault.]

Clay’s next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 14. He is not in custody.