Former Miles City athletic trainer plea hearing continued as judge asks for prosecutors for more evidence

Posted at 1:48 PM, Feb 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-13 15:48:16-05

BILLINGS – The change of plea hearing for the former Miles City athletic trainer accused of sexually abusing dozens of boys was continued Tuesday.

James “Doc” Jensen was scheduled to admit to charges of coercion and enticement of a minor in federal court.

Judge Timothy Cavan continued the hearing though, saying he needed more proof from the government that Jensen was in fact guilty of the crime.

To be guilty of the charge, the prosecution has to show that Jensen used a means of interstate or foreign commerce to persuade, entice or coerce the minor to engage in sexual activity.

Cavan said the issue lies in whether or not Jensen used means of interstate commerce to coerce the young boys into taking part in “The Program.”

Court documents state Jensen used “The Program” to sexually molest young male athletes under the promise of increased athletic performance.

All parties agreed that the internet can be classified as “use of interstate commerce,” but Cavan said the government did not have proof in their filings that Jensen used the internet to directly contact minors.

Prosecutors said that since Jensen used the internet to research what would eventually become “The Program,” and that information was used to entice the boys, that the statue was satisfied.

“It seems like a pretty dramatic extension,” said Cavan.

After a brief recess to read previous court cases related to the matter, the judge said he needed more proof before the hearings could proceed.

The hearing was rescheduled for next week.

-Reported by Samantha Sullivan/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