HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A former Montana high school athletic trainer accused of sexually abusing students under the guise of boosting their athletic performance was arrested Thursday after investigators found child pornography in his room in a Miles City retirement home, authorities said.
James Jensen, 78, was in jail on $100,000 bond and awaiting a court date on charges of sexual abuse of children for possessing 10 digital images of underage boys nude or engaged in sex acts, Custer County Attorney Wyatt Glade said in a statement.
Jensen came to the attention of state and local authorities after 19 former Custer County High School students sued him and the school district over the alleged abuse from when Jensen was a part-time athletic trainer at the school from the 1970s until about 1998. They say Jensen promised to enhance their strength and testosterone levels through participation in "The Program," in which he performed nude massages and sexual acts on the boys.
Jensen's court-appointed public defender, Kathy Coleman, did not respond to a voicemail and email requesting comment. In September, Jensen told The Billings Gazette that he was sorry if he caused any of the boys' distress, but he said he was not guilty of the lawsuit's more serious allegations.
Jensen won't be criminally charged with abusing former students because the alleged abuse happened outside of the statute of limitations, Glade said.
The allegations in the lawsuit led authorities to open a criminal investigation. During that investigation, a former housekeeper at Jensen's retirement home told authorities in September that she had seen nude images of boys on Jensen's computer screen while she was cleaning his room, according to a court document filed by Glade.
Jensen told the housekeeper that the photos were of his nephews, Glade wrote.
The following month, investigators with a warrant searched Jensen's room and seized his computer, a tablet and a memory card. The images of boys were found on the card and analyzed by a doctor for a medical opinion of their ages, the youngest of which the doctor said was 9 or under.
Each count of sexual abuse of children carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $10,000 fine upon conviction.