A former associate professor at Brigham Young University accused of sexually abusing a student has requested the student’s Title IX records.
The Utah County Attorney’s Office filed charges against 46-year-old Michael James Clay of Springville in the Fourth District Court on June 25, 2020. Clay faces two second-degree felony charges of forcible sexual abuse.
Clay was previously employed at BYU as the head of Urban and Regional Planning in the Geography Department, leaving him in charge of the program that the student he allegedly abused was involved in.
On Feb. 2, Clay’s attorneys filed a motion for a subpoena requesting the student’s records housed in BYU’s Title IX Office. The motion referenced rule 14(b) of the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure. The rule allows the defense to seek a subpoena of “privileged records pertaining to a victim.”
In the motion, Clay’s attorneys claim they are privy to the information they are requesting on the basis that the student has previously accused another male of “engaging in sexual conduct without her consent,” later withdrawing those allegations.
The defense argues the Title IX documents include the report filed by the student’s BYU Freshman Mentor as well as an email the student allegedly wrote asserting that “she made up the report” and telling the office “not to investigate the incident.”
The subpoena, however, could violate Utah’s rape shield law, outlined in Rule 412, which prohibits the defense from introducing evidence that would prove a victim “engaged in other sexual behavior” as well as evidence that would prove “a victim’s sexual predisposition.”
According to court documents, the records are critical to Clay’s defense and he has identified the records “with sufficient particularity,” as he allegedly has first-hand knowledge of the requested records, having reportedly seen at least one of the emails himself.
“Defendant’s defense is that the allegations by [the student] are fabricated,” according to the motion. “If [the student] accused a different man of sexual misconduct and then recanted that story just a few months prior to accusing the Defendant of sexual misconduct, that is highly relevant to the credibility of [the student] in this case.”
According to documents filed in support of the felony charges, the student — a woman originally from another country — told Clay she was having “emotional difficulties.” Clay allegedly told her he could “make her feel better and make all the negative feelings go away.”
The student reported that she met with Clay in his office more than 20 times where he would allegedly play meditation music and tell her that his office was a safe place. However, Clay also allegedly told her to delete text messages he sent to her and reportedly said she shouldn’t tell anyone what went on behind closed doors.
When the student shared with Clay that she was seeing a psychiatrist, he allegedly told her their meetings were more effective, according to court documents. During their time together, Clay would allegedly tell the student she needed to change her body chemistry and practice being a good wife, reportedly offering to help her.
The woman reportedly told authorities she considered Clay a mentor and therapist as he had promised to help support her emotionally and physically.
These meetings came to a head sometime in January or February when Clay allegedly drove the student up a canyon in Utah County where he inappropriately touched her. Clay allegedly asked if it was OK, and the student said she told him it was OK because “she felt like she had to say yes.”
Clay is expected to appear in court before Judge Darold McDade on Feb. 22 at 10 a.m. for a preliminary hearing.