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Former LDS seminary principal pleads guilty to sex abuse

By Sam Penrod  |  Posted Jun 1st, 2010 @ 5:05pm

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UTAH COUNTY -- Former LDS seminary principal Michael Pratt pleaded guilty to sex abuse of student at Lone Peak High School Tuesday morning.

The plea deal was reached just days before Pratt was scheduled to stand trial on 15 counts of sex abuse. In exchange for the plea, 11 counts were dropped and prosecutors will ask the judge that he serve all of his sentences concurrently.

Prosecutors said the plea deal was finally reached in an effort to protect the victim, who, along with her family, was in the courtroom Tuesday to watch as Michael Pratt told the judge he was guilty to the charges.

The girl and her family said they are relieved to have Pratt finally take responsibility for what happened.

"The family is satisfied with the plea, and we're extremely pleased she does not have to go through the ordeal of a trial," said a spokesman for the victim's family.

The guilty pleas end a case that has been going on for nearly a year, since Pratt was arrested back in July of 2009.

Tuesday in court, Pratt admitted to having a sexual relationship with the then 16-year-old girl, who was a student at the LDS seminary. He admitted to three first-degree felonies and one second-degree felony of sex abuse.

Pratt made a very quick exit out of the courtroom as soon as he finished entering his guilty pleas.

The victim testified at a preliminary hearing that the two became acquainted at the seminary last winter. She would often spend time in his office instead of class, and eventually the two would leave the campus during school time.

The girl said that he had promised to marry her. During a preliminary hearing last fall, prosecutors played a video of Pratt singing a song about how he loved her.

On several occasions last May and June, the relationship was sexual. In early July, her parents discovered what was going on and called police.

His arrest last summer left people who knew the popular LDS seminary teacher in shock.

He was immediately fired from his position and, after his arrest, told reporters that someday the truth would come out.

The girl's family says they approve of the plea deal, especially since it will keep her from having to testify again about the relationship. Prosecutors believe the plea deal ensures justice will be served.

"It's hard to make a victim get on the stand and testify about these kinds of things that are personal and private and, for a teenage girl, embarrassing," said prosecutor Julia Thomas. "So it's in everybody's best interest to resolve it, short of a trial."

They now hope she can begin to recover from the ordeal.

"It has interrupted nearly every facet of her life, from not being able to complete high school with her high school to her mistrust of adults and people in authority, especially in her religion," said Thomas.

Pratt's attorney told KSL his client took the deal after hearing the evidence against him.

He faces six years to life in prison.

The plea deal calls for the sentences to be served at the same time and, because he has no criminal history, Pratt's attorney will argue for jail time instead of prison.

Ultimately the judge will decide what Pratt's punishment will be when he is sentenced on Aug. 31. Until that time, he is free on bail.



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