Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Former LDS Seminary Principal Michael Pratt Hires Private Attorneys, Secures A Delay In Trial Until June 14th

Since my February 16th post on this case, former Lone Peak LDS seminary principal and accused child sex abuser Michael Pratt hired two private attorneys to take over his case, and was back in court on March 16th, 2010 to plea for a two-month delay in the start of his trial so the new attorneys will have time to get up to speed. Media stories published by the Provo Daily Herald, the Deseret News, and KSL Channel 5.

You can read all previous posts about this case HERE, with the most recent post appearing first. KSL news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of

Pratt had dumped his public defenders because his case was taking up too much of their time. One of the defense attorneys, Dusty Kawai, said he had a total of 200 cases, and Pratt's case was taking 40 percent of his time every day. J.C. Wright was similarly encumbered. So Pratt hired two private attorneys, Stephen R. McCaughey and Jeremy M. Delicino about two weeks ago to take over the case, and McCaughey told 4th District Judge Christine Johnson that he would not have time to prepare for the trial by the proposed start date of April 12th because of numerous motions that have yet to be argued. He said the case is very serious and involves possible life sentences. McCaughey also said that on average, people with similar charges spend about seven to 10 years in prison, and assured the court that this was not a ploy by Pratt to delay the trial.

Prosecutor Julia Thomas told the judge she opposed the motion, just as she opposed the previous request. Although Pratt has new attorneys, she said rules of civil procedure are explicit in that the right to counsel of the defendant's choice are still subject to the court's schedule. She asserted that a new attorney appointment must still comply with deadlines that have been established by the court.

Judge Johnson granted the defense's request, setting a new start date of June 14th for the eight-day trial, but told McCaughey he is in this case until the end. She also told Pratt's new attorneys that she will not allow them to withdraw from the case and delay it again. She said she would not allow another "11th-hour" continuance.

Pratt remains free on bail. An additional preliminary hearing on several pre-trial motions on the admissibility of statements by Pratt's wife, whether Pratt occupied a position of trust as the girl's principal and other matters, originally set for March 23rd, has now been pushed forward until April 20th. Despite the fact that public opinion is massively shifting against Pratt, there is no talk yet of moving the proposed trial out of Utah County.

Pratt has pleaded not guilty to 15 different charges, including 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 victim earlier testified the two had sexual encounters on several occasions in May and June 2009. Some of them occurred during school time, and she testified Pratt drove her to remote locations where the crimes took place. After the allegations became public, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints removed him from his position as a seminary principal. He is still a member of the Church so far as we know; the Church won't convene a disciplinary council unless he is convicted or confesses.

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