Jensen pleads guilty to charge of coercing and enticing boys

Wire And Staff Reports
Wednesday, March 13, 2019

MISSOULA (AP) — A former Custer County District High School athletic trainer pleaded guilty Tuesday to using information from the internet to develop what he called "The Program" to coerce young boys into sexual activity by claiming it would boost their athletic performance.

James "Doc" Jensen, 79, sat in a wheelchair as he pleaded guilty to a charge of coercion and enticement in U.S. District Court in Missoula, the Missoulian reported.

Jensen decided to plead guilty without making a deal with prosecutors. His public defender, Steve Babcock, said prosecutors had enough evidence for a conviction if the case had gone to trial, and he acknowledged a high number of victims.

"We would admit there were probably 100 victims in this case," Babcock said.

The Miles City man faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on July 30 in Billings.

Jensen was a trainer at CCDHS in Miles City from the 1970s until the late 1990s. The federal indictment was filed in December and focused on Jensen's actions from 1995 until 1999.

Jensen has acknowledged some of the abuse, but denied other allegations. During interviews with investigators, he equated his program to Chinese acupuncture and said he "had applied it to hundreds of children," according to court filings.

A criminal investigation began after more than a dozen alleged victims filed a lawsuit against Jensen and the school district in September. The number of plaintiffs in the pending lawsuit has now grown to more than 30.

At the time of the abuse, the statute of limitations for prosecuting child sex crimes was 10 years. That means Jensen hasn't been criminally charged with abusing former students.

Reports said he contacted some of his victims via social media shortly after the statute of limitations ran out.

Montana lawmakers are considering legislation that would end the statute of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes.

Prosecutors said Jensen also sexually abused students on athletic-related trips to North Dakota and California and pretended he was a teenager online to meet underage boys in the 1990s.

Jensen has pleaded not guilty to separate state charges related to possessing child pornography that prosecutors said was found when investigators searched his room in a Miles City retirement home. He is charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse of children via possession of child pornography. He was arrested on the state charges in December by Miles City police.

The felony charge of sexual abuse of children carries possible penalties that include a fine that not to exceed $10,000, a prison term not to exceed 10 years, or both. Jensen may also be required to pay restitution.

Last month he appeared via video for his pretrial hearing on the sexual abuse charges he faces in the Montana 16th Judicial District Court.

His local trial is scheduled for three days starting on Wednesday, June 26 with a panel of 12 jurors.