Sex crimes investigation under way

Former CCDHS trainer has been sued for alleged abuse of athletes
By: 
Ashley Roness
Star Staff Writer
Monday, September 24, 2018

STAR PHOTO/Sharon Moore

 

The Miles City Police Department and the Montana Department of Justice are investigating the sexual abuse allegations made in a lawsuit against James “Doc” Jensen, 78, of Miles City, a former athletic trainer at Custer County District High School.

State Attorney General Tim Fox told the Associated Press that state investigators are assisting the MCPD. According to the AP, it is too early in the investigation to tell if the state’s 20-year statute of limitations on child sex crimes would apply.

For more than 20 years, ending in 1998, Jensen allegedly groomed and sexually abused boys, according to the civil lawsuit filed  in Custer County District Court on Friday.

Jensen, 78, who is not a physician, worked for the school district as a part-time athletic trainer at the high school from the 1970s through 1998. To date, 18 alleged victims and counting have been identified.

Miles City attorney Dan Rice in an email to the Star said there are many more victims. 

“Yes, I know for certain that there are more victims. I will not disclose any specifics in that regard until such time as they are added as additional plaintiffs, which we will be doing from time to time,” said Rice. 

Jensen is just one person listed in the suit. The Miles City Unified School District, the high school and John Does A-Z are also named as defendants. The John Does are unnamed school and athletic officials who possibly knew about the alleged abuses and failed to act. 

According to the lawsuit, Jensen was an employee of the district from the 1970s to the summer of 1998, when he was either terminated or left the district.

His departure stemmed from a complaint from a parent about Jensen performing hernia checks on the athletes during their athletics physicals, the lawsuit noted.

The suit was filed by Rice, his partner Bryant Martin and John Heenan, an attorney from Billings.

The school district referred questions to its attorney, who released this statement.

“Miles City Public Schools is extremely concerned by the allegations set out in the Complaint. The absolutely atrocious acts described in the Complaint that [allegedly]  took place 20 or more years ago are horrific. Each of us currently in the District — our educators, trustees and staff — cares first and foremost about the safety and well-being of our students. We believe that even one child harmed on our watch is not acceptable and will do everything we can to get to the bottom of this situation,” said Jeana Lervick, the district’s attorney.

The lawsuit stems from an attempt by Jensen to make contact with one of the alleged victims, according to Rice.

“One of the victims received a Facebook friends request from Jensen, a person he hadn’t thought about for many years. It was deeply upsetting to him, and he started reaching out to his friends and classmates to help him piece together what had happened to them,” said Rice. “As they talked to each other more and more, they were able to piece together just how horrible the abuse they suffered was.”

According to Rice, he has been working on the case for several months after being contacted by several of the victims. The alleged abuse suffered by the first victims who contacted Rice were too old to purse a criminal prosecution, he said.

According to the lawsuit, the victims were subjected to several different levels of sexual abuse, ranging from nude massages to oral sex. These abuses were part of what Jensen is alleged to have called “The Program.”

“The Program” was supposed to help improve a boy’s testosterone production, strength, fitness and overall athletic performance.

Jensen informed several of the District coaches and staff of his training program, and those coaches and staff then discussed the program with the students and encouraged them to participate, the lawsuit stated. 

“After reviewing the facts, it was clear that there were numerous failures by the school system to protect the children from a man who was clearly a child predator. He was given unbelievable access to children. Jensen was allowed by the school district to perform physicals on hundreds of boys (handling their genitals) without any apparent medical training or certification to do so.  He held the position of ‘athletic trainer’ despite not being a licensed athletic trainer. Jensen performed nude massages on the boys at the school, often times at the express direction of coaching staff. Jensen was given an office which overlooked the boys’ showers. Jensen abused kids at the school, and he recruited them at the school to attend additional massage therapy at his home, where he further abused the boys. At least some coaching staff were aware that Jensen was having kids over to his house for massages. One boy reported this abuse to his physician, and nothing came from the report. When Jensen was “let go” from the school, it was done quietly — and he was able to continue abusing children as a result,” Rice wrote in the email.

When asked by KULR-8 TV of Billings if the allegations in the lawsuit were true, a man indentified as Jensen appeared to confirm via telephone that they were. The man also seemed to confirm that the details about “the program” were also true.

“I am sorry if I caused them any distress mentally or physically. I’m sorry I did what I did,” the man identified as Jensen said when asked by KULR-8 if he had anything to say to the athletes and their families.

Jensen also posted on a Custer County Grads Facebook page in 2016 saying: “I want to ask for forgiveness from anyone I may [have] hurt emotionally or physically during my 28 years as the Cowboy trainer.”

The Star tried to reach Jensen but didn’t receive a response by press time. 

The suit is asking for no set amount of money, but requests something to cover “special damages, general damages, costs including attorney’s fees and other and further relief.”

“We will also be demanding legislative change, as Montana is in a minority of states which even has a statute of limitations period for child sex crimes. Most states allow for prosecution any time during the perpetrator’s lifetime. I’m not sure why Montana went out of its way to review the statute of limitations last session, only to keep a limit in place — when the only person benefited by the statute of limitations is the child predator himself,” Rice wrote. 

Victims are encouraged to reach out to Rice or go to the outreach website at www.milescityabusevictims.com. 

(Contact Ashley Roness at starnews@midrivers.com or 406-234-0450.)

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