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Ex-seminary principal Michael Pratt pleads guilty in sex case

AMERICAN FORK — A former seminary principal accused of having a sexual relationship with a former student pleaded guilty Tuesday rather than go to trial.

Michael J. Pratt, 38, pleaded guilty in 4th District Court to two counts of object rape and one count of forcible sodomy, first-degree felonies, and one count of forcible sex abuse, a second-degree felony.

Under the plea deal, Pratt's charges could run concurrently, which would give him a minimum time of six years to life in prison.

Eleven other similar felonies were dismissed. He will be sentenced Aug. 31 at 2 p.m.

"The family is satisfied with the plea. We're pleased she didn't have to go through the ordeal of a trial," the girl's stepfather said Tuesday after the hearing.

Pratt, the former principal of the Lone Peak High School LDS seminary in Highland, was slated to have an eight-day trial beginning June 14 on allegations that he took a 16-year-old student out of school and to various places in Utah County for sexual encounters.

The girl, now 17, detailed at a hearing last October several encounters she said she had with "Brother Pratt." She said Pratt picked her up twice from Especially For Youth, a weeklong LDS religious camp, for sexual encounters. She testified that on other occasions, she hid in his car so he could sneak her out of school.

The girl said the relationship began when Pratt took her out of seminary class to spend time in his office. He described sexual fantasies he'd had about the two of them and even talked about running away to get married in either Las Vegas or Africa.

"(This) has interrupted nearly every facet of her life, from not being able to complete high school with her class to her mistrust of adults and people in authority, especially in her religion," said deputy Utah County attorney Julia Thomas.

Thomas said she was pleased Pratt pleaded guilty to the four charges, something the prosecution had been pushing from the beginning.

"We felt that represented the conduct that occurred," she said.

Pratt was arrested after the girl's parents brought the relationship to the attention of church officials. The LDS Church fired him that week.

Pratt, 38, was originally charged with 10 counts of forcible sodomy, seven counts of object rape and two counts of rape — all first-degree felonies — and two counts of forcible sex abuse, a second-degree felony. Following a preliminary hearing in October, however, a judge dismissed six of those charges — one count of rape, two counts of object rape, two counts of forcible sodomy and one count of forcible sex abuse.

Adult Probation and Parole was ordered to prepare a pre-sentence report on Pratt.

Contributing: Abigail Shaha