Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Former Seminary Principal Michael Pratt Pleads Not Guilty To 15 Different Felonies Relating To Sexual Abuse Of A Minor; Trial Set For April 12th, 2010

Former Lone Peak High School seminary principal Michael Pratt finally entered a plea in 4th District Court in American Fork, Utah on November 10th, 2009. He pleaded not guilty on 15 different charges. Media stories from the Provo Daily Herald, the Deseret News (which also recaps the case), the Salt Lake Tribune, and KSL Channel 5.

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

Pratt pleaded not guilty to 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, resulting from a sexual relationship between himself and an unidentified 16-year-old female student in his seminary class. During a preliminary hearing held on October 20th, the girl testified about more than 30 sex acts between the two, mostly fondling and oral sex. KSL news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of KSL.com

Prosecutors say regardless of if the student agreed to the relationship, that it is not a defense Pratt can use, since he held a position of trust over the victim. "A minor has a different perspective on relationships and what the expectations and motivations are and what the hidden agendas might be, and those are different with a minor than an adult; and that is the intent of the law, to protect children," prosecutor Julia Thomas said. The eight-day length of the trial will be necessary to allow sufficient time for the numerous witnesses the state will put on the stand. Thomas also said Pratt's alleged victim will testify, as well as several corroborating witnesses, and pointed out that only a fraction of the evidence was put forth at the October 20th preliminary hearing.

Judge Christine Johnson set an April 12th, 2010 start date for Pratt's trial, and signed an order refunding Pratt's original $20,000 cash bail that was paid with the help of friends. His revised bail of $30,000 cash or bond was paid for by All-American Bail Bonds.

Here's a snippet of public reaction. First, from the Tribune comments:

jacksonpapa: 11/10/2009 2:33:00 PM
What the hell is the difference between Pratt gettin some young stuff and all the 30ish women who are having sex with teen boys? Is this not the same. I didn't see the outrage when those ladies were arrested. The comments there were, "way to go," or "lucky kid." Well, I will say way to go Brother Pratt. You just got yourself some young love!!! Lucky girl, gettin some from an older experienced fellow!

Start having the same standards people!!!! It is disgusting for a man to be with a minor just as it IS disgusting for a woman to be with a minor as well!!! These are OUR children. They should all be strung up!

byot09: 11/10/2009 2:35:00 PM
I can't believe the variance between the Tribune and the Dnews [Deseret News]...people are butchering the girl and her story on that website...or maybe they are censoring all the people who are butchering Brother Pratt???

top_10: 11/10/2009 3:02:00 PM
Why did the high school let Pratt sign out the student. As far as I can remember only my wife and I could sign our kids out unless we gave permission in writing. It should be kidnapping as well as rape. He can't stop himself. He should be a lifer at point of the mountain.

Next, a sampling of comments from the Deseret News:

@ DAISY | 12:14 p.m. Nov. 10, 2009
Why is it only men you shouldn't trust. From what I can remember over the last year, there have been more cases like this involving women teachers. Three have been convicted just recently. Why point the finger at only men?

Mind boggling | 12:31 p.m. Nov. 10, 2009
I see what you mean Daisy but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. I would bet there are very few times a woman is in a situation with an authority figure man that she couldn't get out of if she heeded her conscience immediately and told someone. Yes what Bro. Pratt allegedly did is wrong - no question. He should be punished accordingly. She was a minor and all that yada yada. But this girl wasn't helpless. She could have run for her life when she realized how far they were getting into it. She was not deaf nor blind. She knew he was married. She knew what she was involved with was wrong. She has never mentioned that he threatened to kill her or her family. She was along for the ride. It's not her fault but she could have stopped it. It's always good to be wary of those situations when you just feel something isn't right. But it's pathologic to fear all men of authority in any religion.

Crow Dog | 11:48 a.m. Nov. 10, 2009
At this phase of the judicial process it is typical for the accused to plead not guilty. Defense attorneys frequently feel this will position them better for a plea bargain, allowing them to find out better what evidence really is out there. Complete truth has not been disclosed yet. I think rather lengthy and costly penalties are likely to be the outcome.

Of course, not guilty | 11:51 a.m. Nov. 10, 2009
The reason he entered a not guilty plea is so that he can go to trial. It's the american way to not confess, even though he knows he's guilty so he can try to get a shorter prison term. Confessing would be the worst thing for him in terms of the "justice" system. It's sick, but that's the way it works.

truth vs error | 11:53 a.m. Nov. 10, 2009
Who is lying. Who is telling the truth. My guess is the "real" truth lies somewhere in between. I am suspicious of the girl and her testimony. A lot of it seems made up. I don't know - something just doesn't feel right. Pratt is guilty - the question is how guilty. The bottom line here is this should have never happened in the first place. If the girl was coming on to Pratt then he should have immediately stopped it ... but he didn't.

Lisa | 12:03 p.m. Nov. 10, 2009
Prosecuters dont press charges until they have some evidence to back up the claims. Cell phone records, attendence records...Teachers have a position of trust and MUST maintain professional distance. You cant have kids skipping in your office or transporting them away from school in your car no matter what the "event" is. If its sex thats the "event" then well you just broke the law. Adults have to be the adults in any situation. You dont just fall on top of someone cause she "tempted" me. You maintain your distance and report the student for truancy. Sorry folks I have a hard time working up sympathy for this teacher. All I can say is he is lucky it wasnt my 16 year old seminary student. If he's innocent then boy did he skirt real close to the edge of inappropriate behavior.

Numerous comments have also been posted on the KSL website.

No comments: