Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Accused Sex Predator Michael Pratt Has Preliminary Hearing In American Fork, Utah; 17-Year-Old Victim Testifies Of Numerous Sexual Liaisons

Five weeks later than originally expected, former Lone Peak High seminary principal Michael Pratt, charged with 10 first-degree felony counts of forcible sodomy, seven counts of object rape, two counts of rape, and two second-degree felony counts of forcible sex abuse, finally had his preliminary hearing at 4th District Court in American Fork, Utah on October 20th, 2009. The alleged victim, now 17 years old, gave her testimony. This post combines and summarizes information reported by the Provo Daily Herald (the most detailed account), the Deseret News, KSTU Channel 13, and KSL Channel 5.

All previous posts on this case available HERE; the most recent post will appear first.

The preliminary hearing was originally expected to take place on September 15th. No particular reason for the delay was reported, but it was most likely to wait for additional cell phone records requested by the defense. The prosecution originally opposed the request. KSL news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of KSL.com

The female victim testified she first met Pratt in January 2009 after transferring to a new seminary class, and the two began to talk frequently in his office. She said Pratt summoned her out of class one day, and she then began going to his office instead of class each day. There, the two would talk about what she said was "life in general," calling him a good friend and someone she trusted. The girl said the friendship continued until April 30th, when she recorded, with her camera, Michael Pratt singing her a song in his office. You can read the lyrics of the song HERE - if you really want to. Pratt also told her about a fantasy he had about her. The fantasy involved getting her out of school, going to Bridal Veil Falls for a picnic, kissing under the falls, going to a bed and breakfast in Provo and having sex. Then he would give her two tickets to Africa and they would leave together. She said she was shocked at the conversation.

The next day, May 1st, she spent the entire school day in Pratt's office. She said Pratt told her that he was in love with her and to think about it over the weekend. She left with a friend and told her what had happened. Over that weekend, she said she couldn't sleep or eat. She ended up having an anxiety attack and had to go to the hospital. She said Pratt was worried about her and kept calling and texting her, saying he shouldn't have done what he did. But she told him that he couldn't walk away. That night, Pratt went to her aunt's house and gave her a blessing.

Then on May 6th, he gave her his car keys and she left school, she said. She hid in the backseat of his car and he drove away. They ended up at Bridal Veil Falls, then at Vivian Park in Provo Canyon where he performed sex acts on her inside an abandoned train car. Another date was kissing-only because the girl had swine flu; Pratt caught it from her. Their next sexual contact happened at an abandoned house in her neighborhood on June 22nd (confirmed by photographic evidence of Pratt's car parked at the location). The Deseret News reports that she was attending an Especially For Youth LDS religious camp at the time. Then on June 25th, she was staying with her grandparents and he picked her up at a restaurant in Pleasant Grove. They drove to Santaquin, ate breakfast and then drove to an old mine in Eureka. She testified that they performed sex acts on each other in the mine and attempted to have sexual intercourse. They then went skinny dipping in a hot springs in Santaquin and again attempted to have sexual intercourse at his car. KSL reports that yet another sexual encounter took place on the roof of the seminary building.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that when it was all over, Judge Christine Johnson ruled that because of errors in the charging document, Pratt should stand trial on only 15 counts: one count of rape, eight counts of forcible sodomy and five counts of object rape, all first-degree felonies, and one count of second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse. The girl's testimony did not match dates set down in charging documents by prosecutors. Pratt will be formally arraigned on the charges on November 10th, and then the judge will set a date for his trial. He faces up to life in prison if he is convicted.

Public reaction: Comments posted to the various news stories indicate the public has clearly turned against Pratt, although there are still a few who want to shift the blame to the girl, trying to portray her as a "Lolita". There's no evidence so far that the girl was acting like a Lolita. An individual who identifies as Pratt's neighbor and friend posted the following comment to the KSL story:

5:59pm - Tue Oct 20th, 2009
This man is my dear neighbor and friend. I truly believe he is innocent. My children and his children are close friends and they say he has never given them reason to believe that he would ever abuse their trust. My daughter has babysat for them and never once did he ever step over the line of trust.

I only know that the girl that is accusing him is a liar, immoral, immodest, and not one to be trusted. I have friends who go to school with the girl and they say she cannot be trusted. Even if it comes down to "he says, she says" I know that Mike Pratt would have hundreds of people/former students willing to testify in behalf of his character. I would like to see how many would testify on behalf of the character of the girl accusing him of these ridiculous accusations.

Also, if a man is committing adultery, the last thing he would do is have sex in open, conspicuous places. Most men would go to great measures to hide their sin. Her accusations are utterly ridiculous. If she claims that he is this type of man, then why haven't hundreds of other girls come forward whom he knows? Because he would never do anything like this. We feel that all the rotten things being discussed on this comment board are by ignorant people who don't have all the facts. The media is only allowing you to hear one side of the story. Someone let Mike tell his side of the story.

However, one of Pratt's former students at Viewmont posted this response, more representative of majority opinion:

6:50pm - Tue Oct 20th, 2009
Zzyzzx you are insane. He was my Seminary teacher at Viewmont. He always had kids in his office with the door closed and he always called kids at home. I'm not saying anything happened while he was working at Viewmont, but I am saying that a grown man should know better. There is no reason for him to call a minor at home, anything he needed to say could be said through a parent. There was never a reason he needed to be in an office with his door closed. He had poor judgement then, and has poor judgement now.

So while I am going to withhold calling him a rapist until after a verdict, I will say he is a creep. He lacks common sense and has no business working with kids only because he doesn't know where to draw the line.

He is a very charismatic man, he knows how to relate to, and gain the trust of youth. I can see him using his charm to start an inappropriate relationship with a child. You might need to reexamine your stigma of child predators. They aren't the scary, creepy, dirty men you might be thinking of. They are the clean, nice, polite ones that can convince a child that what they are doing is OK.

If what the girl is saying is true, Pratt needs to spend a LONG time at the Point of the Mountain.

In any event, even if the girl did pursue him, Pratt, being the adult and in authority, had the obligation to turn her down. If he's convicted, he deserves what he gets.

No comments: