BILLINGS – A former Miles City high school athletic trainer accused of sexually abusing at least 32 teenage boys intends to plead guilty to federal charges.
An attorney for James Jensen filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Billings Thursday.
The federal charges against Jensen were handed down in December 2018, accusing the former trainer of enticing minors to engage in sexual activity over the internet.
U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said Jensen used means of interstate commerce, including the Internet, to “entice and coerce an individual who he believed was a minor to engage in sexual activity.”
In October, authorities discovered child pornography when they were investigating accusations from 31 former Miles City student-athletes who said Jensen had touched them inappropriately from the 1970s to the 1990s as a trainer. Another former student later joined the suit.
The former students made their allegations in a civil suit. Jensen has not been charged with any state crimes in relation to those allegations.
Victims’ attorneys have said the total number of victims could be much higher.
Upon hearing the news that Jensen intends plead guilty to the federal charges, attorneys for the victims found some assurance in the action.
“One thing that we could not promise our clients when they approached us was that we could put Jensen in jail for what he did to them. It is a testament to our clients’ courage and decision to speak up, and their civil action was able to shed light on other crimes that Jensen is now being criminally punished for,” said Attorney Bryant Martin.
Martin also said that with Jensen off the streets, his client and children in the community are safer.
A second victims’ attorney, Dan Rice, said the guilty plea is a step in the right direction.
“I am glad to see that not only is ‘Doc’ Jensen being held accountable for his crimes against children, but also that he has decided to take responsibility and accountability for what he has done,” said Rice.
A hearing has been set for Tuesday by U.S. Judge Timothy Cavan, which will take place at the federal courthouse in Billings.
Federal charges carry a maximum of 15 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years’ supervised release.
-Reported by Andrea Lutz/MTN News
(January 2, 2019) Wednesday there was frustration and new court filings in a massive sex abuse case that dates back 30 years in the town of Miles City.
According to new documents filed in Custer County District Court Wednesday, the Miles City Unified School District argues that their longtime athletic trainer was not a full-time employee and the school district should not be liable for the alleged molestation of possibly hundreds of students.
Lawyers who represent 31 victims in this case have asked a judge to force the school district to hand over evidence and documents in the process of discovery.
In September, a civil lawsuit was filed by dozens of former Custer County High School students who claim they were repeatedly sexually abused by the districts longtime athletic trainer James Jensen, 78, from the mid-1970s until 1998.
The suit says that the Miles City Unified School District knew about the alleged abuse by Jensen and failed to prevent students from being molested.
In response, the district filed its own lawsuit against Jensen for deceiving the school administrators.
Jensen is currently sitting in the Yellowstone County Detention Center facing federal and state charges relating to child pornography and coercion.
Still, frustrations are high as a co-lawyer for the victims Dan Rice said Wednesday that the school district is not handing over vital information for the case.
“If you have the information, provide it. If you don’t have the information, say you don’t have it,” said Rice.
Rice said they are looking for answers to questions they’ve asked in court proceedings pertaining to the details about the district’s insurance policy and documents relating to student conduct investigations involving Jensen and information about what led to Jensen’s termination from the district.
However, Rice said the district has objected to all requests.
“But to deny that you don’t have it and to refuse to provide it as the basis of that denial leaves us not knowing if the evidence is there, but it’s being withheld,” he said.
Rice said along with that, the district seems to indicate that it wasn’t responsible for Jensen’s alleged sexual abuse, saying he wasn’t a full-time employee.
“When you send your kids to school you expect that the school district is going to supervise the employees, whether they are full time or part-time employees or volunteers,” he said.
With a scheduled 10 months left in the discovery process in the case, Rice worries the district is dragging its feet.
“They promised that they were going to work around the clock to get to the bottom of what happened,” said Rice. “We don’t have anything from their investigation into Jensen and they say they investigated him but there are no documents supporting that assertion.”
Q2 News reached out to attorneys for the Miles City Unified School District to seek comment in response and will update this story with a response.
-Reported by Andrea Lutz/MTN News