BILLINGS – Former Miles City trainer James Jensen was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in federal prison and three years of supervised release on charges related to repeated sexual abuse of dozens of male student-athletes.
Jensen will serve his sentence in the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., which is reserved for prisoners with medical needs. Jensen suffers from diabetes and other ailments that have left him frail and wheelchair bound in previous court appearances.
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Jensen, 79, was sentenced in federal court in Billings by U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen for charges of coercion and enticement. Prosecutors had recommended the maximum of 15 years because of the breadth of the abuse, which spanned decades.
Jensen pleaded guilty in December 2018 He also faces separate state charges of possession of child pornography, for which has pleaded guilty.
Jensen served as trainer as Custer County High School from 1970 to 1998. He developed what he called “The Program,” which he used to sexually assault possibly hundreds of teenagers over the years. Under the guise of building muscle mass, Jensen massaged and stimulated their genitals, according to court documents.
In explaining the sentence, Christensen, who is based in Missoula but brought to Billings for this case, said the sentence was “sufficient but not greater than necessary.”
Jensen spoke in court and apologized to his victims.
“I’m deeply sorry for what happened, physically and emotionally. There’s no excuse for my actions while administering ‘The Program,’” Jensen said.
The judge did not make Jensen stand for the sentencing, and he required hearing assistance. He had a shaved head and wore a white khaki jumpsuit in court.
Three of the victims also spoke, giving powerful testimonies to how Jensen’s abuse still affects them decades later.
“Jim has handed me a life sentence,” one man said.
“I’d like to say that things got better. this will be something I deal with for the rest of my life,” a second victim said. “I’m sorry that you have this urge, this temptation. I believe in forgiveness. But as far as this time on Earth, I believe there needs to be accountability.”
The case came under federal jurisdiction after investigators discovered that Jensen had used the internet to research how to implement “The Program.” He also sought additional victims online, according to prosecutors.
In a separate civil case, 32 of Jensen’s victims have sued the Miles City Unified School District for unspecified damages, claiming school officials and coaches were aware of the abuse and did not stop it. That case is pending.
-Andrea Lutz and Mitch Lagge reporting for MTN News