NewsCrime and Courts


Former Miles City trainer pleads guilty to sex-abuse crimes in federal court

Posted at 4:23 PM, Mar 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-12 19:46:00-04

MISSOULA – The former Miles City athletic trainer accused of sex crimes involving teenage athletes pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Missoula.

James Jensen, 79, pleaded guilty to federal charges of coercing or enticing dozens of male athletes into sexual activity through a system called “The Program,” which were sexual massages and rubdowns, which he claimed would enhance physical performance.

Jensen had initially been set to plead guilty in February in Billings, but a judge ordered prosecutors to compile more evidence. Defense attorneys then asked the hearing be moved to another court. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen presided.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 30 in Billings federal court before U.S. District Judge Susan Watters.

Jensen was a trainer at Custer County High School in the 1970s through about 1998. Victims said he would take them in for treatment under the guise of enhancing performance, but instead digitally penetrate or perform oral sex on them.

Prosecutors said Jensen admitted in a September 2018 interview the basic tenets of “The Program,” saying he got information to implement it from the internet.

A relative of Jensen’s told law enforcement of seeing printouts of “The Program,” and another witness said Jensen was seen online deceptively attempting to contact minors, particularly boys, by creating a false identity.

While Jensen said in court Tuesday that he did not recall where some of the sexual incidents took place, he did admit to keeping a log of boys in “The Program.”

Internet searches on his computer were also consistent with an interest in children, prosecutors said.

On Tuesday, Jensen, 79, was wheeled into the courtroom in a wheelchair. His legal troubles began last fall, when a group of 31 sexual-assault survivors filed suit in civil court. They named Jensen and the Miles City Unified School District, claiming the district failed to protect them.

Jensen also faces state criminal charges after a worker told authorities she saw child pornography in his Miles City home. No court date has been set for that case.