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Former seminary principal pleads not guilty to 15 charges

By Sam Penrod  |  Posted Nov 10th, 2009 @ 4:10pm



 

AMERICAN FORK -- The former LDS seminary principal facing charges he had an ongoing sexual relationship with a student pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday. Michael Pratt faces 14 first-degree felonies and a second-degree felony.

Prosecutors said they had overwhelming evidence against Pratt far beyond that of the victim's testimony.

Prosecutor Julia Thomas said, "In a case like this it is usually a ‘he said, she said'-type of situation. This is unique, in that it has a lot more information out there that will help to corroborate it."

Pratt was arrested in July on charges he'd had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl who attended the LDS seminary where he taught.

During a preliminary hearing in October, the girl recounted how the relationship began, as she frequently visited Pratt in his office at the seminary. She testified that on April 30, he told her he loved her and the relationship turned sexual within a week, and it continued through the end of June.

Prosecutors said the victim will go into even further specifics about the relationship during the trial, and there were many more witnesses who were aware of the relationship, as well as evidence documenting it.

Prosecutors said regardless of if the student agreed to the relationship, that it was not a defense Pratt could 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," Thomas said.

Pratt's attorney said they were preparing for trial, which is scheduled to begin April 12 and last eight days.

Pratt did not say anything as he left the courthouse, and several of his supporters attempted to thwart photographers who were trying to record video of him leaving.

If convicted of any of the 14 first-degree felonies, Pratt would face five years to life in prison.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com

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