BILLINGS – James Jensen, 79 years old, was sentenced on Tuesday to 12 years in federal prison and three years of supervised release on charges related to alleged repeated sexual abuse of dozens of male student-athletes.
Jensen served as an athletic trainer at Custer County High School from 1970 through 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.
Jensen will serve his sentence in the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota, which is reserved for prisoners with medical needs. Jensen suffers from diabetes and other ailments that have left him frail and wheelchair-bound.
Jensen was sentenced in federal court in Billings by U.S. District Judge Dana 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, to which has pleaded guilty.
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.’”
Three of the victims also spoke in the courtroom.
The case came under federal jurisdiction after investigators discovered that Jensen had used the internet to research how to implement “The Program.” He also looked for 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.