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American Fork • A woman who was sexually abused by her LDS seminary principal said Monday the crimes have shaped her, but won't define her.
Speaking at Michael Jay Pratt's sentencing hearing, his victim said she is no longer blinded by Pratt's manipulation and lies and is becoming a better, stronger person.
And while she hopes that Pratt who presided over The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' seminary at Lone Peak High School "gets real" with himself and God, she said mercy should not deny justice in his case.
"You should realize you are not above the law or the many covenants you have broken," the woman, now 18, said in a 4th District courtroom Monday morning.
Fourth District Judge Christine Johnson agreed, imposing three concurrent terms of five years to life in prison and an additional one to 15 year sentence. Pratt earlier pleaded guilty to one count of forcible sodomy and two counts of object rape, all first-degree felonies, and forcible sexual assault, a second-degree felony. In return, prosecutors dropped 11 other charges.
Johnson said the aggravating factors Pratt's position as a teacher and religious leader outweighed the mitigating factors, including Pratt's lack of a criminal past and his ties to the community. Nor did pleas from Pratt's friends and family warrant waiving prison time.
"This was not a romance, as it has been dismissed by some, but it was a crime," Johnson said.
Defense attorney Stephen McCaughey argued for a two-year sentence in the Utah County Jail followed by a long probation. McCaughey said Pratt had no criminal record, and a pre-sentencing report said he was a low-risk sex offender.
But Deputy Utah County Attorney Julie Thomas said Pratt's popularity as a teacher and his position in a religious institution warranted severe punishment.
"As a teacher, he was trusted to advise and guide his students," Thomas said. "It was in that position that [the victim] met him."
Thomas said Pratt instead groomed the victim for sexual liaisons. Pratt apologized in court to the those he said he had hurt with his actions.
"I did hurt [the victim] and everyone in the whole world who is close to me," Pratt said.
Prosecutors have said Pratt's abuse began after the victim came to him when she was 16 to tell him she didn't like her assigned seminary teacher. Pratt placed her in a different class, but she would come to his office and talk to him about life.
In May 2009, Pratt told her he loved her, sparking a relationship the victim was led to believe would end in marriage although Pratt was married with three children. The abuse occurred at Bridal Veil Falls, a ravine near her home in Highland, the roof of the seminary building, a mine shaft in Eureka and a hot spring near Goshen.
The woman's family said in court Monday she had a troubled past, and at first they thought Pratt's interest in her was an answer to prayers. And they said she appeared to be making positive changes in her life, especially when Pratt gave her a three-week assignment a "mission" as they described it to draw closer to Christ.
But family members started feeling uncomfortable about how much time she spent exchanging text messages with Pratt, who was 20 years older.
"My sister confided that she said she was doing the mission to draw closer to Christ, but she got closer to Mr. Pratt," said an aunt of the woman.
The woman's mother said after Pratt was arrested, her daughter was ostracized at high school, not even invited to football games or the senior prom. She was also subjected to abuse on her own Facebook page and other forums along with being accused of seducing Pratt.
The woman's stepfather called Pratt a manipulating liar who tried to deflect the blame from himself and on to his victim. He hinted that Pratt's fourth child, born two months ago, was conceived in an attempt to gin up sympathy with the court for a lighter sentence.
After the hearing, the stepfather said it was not a happy day for either family. Pratt was given enough time to hug his wife before he was escorted from the courtroom by sheriff's deputies.
"Justice was served, but it is a tragedy," the victim's stepfather said after the hearing.