BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A former Montana high school athletic trainer who acknowledged coercing boys into sexual abuse under the guise of improving their athletic performance was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen sentenced James "Doc" Jensen, 79, on charges of coercion and enticement. His prison term will be followed by three years of supervised release.
Jensen acknowledged in March that he used the internet to develop "The Program" to abuse boys at Custer County District High School in Miles City from the 1970s until about 1998. Thirty-two people sued him, and prosecutors and Jensen's attorney say there were many more victims.
"For years, James Jensen manipulated and committed horrible abuse against many boys, causing emotional and physical harm that his victims still suffer today," U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said Tuesday. "Our sincere hope is that this prosecution of Jensen, holding him accountable for his abuse, will help close a chapter in the lives of his many victims."
Montana lawmakers lifted the statute of limitations for prosecuting child sexual abuse, in part because of the Jensen case.
Prosecutors, in seeking a 15-year term, compared the crimes to those of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who was sentenced to 60 years in prison and is suspected of abusing hundreds of girls. Jensen's attorney, Steven Babcock, requested an eight-year sentence, saying in court documents that his client is in very poor physical health and will need constant medical attention.
"Fifteen years for a 79-year-old man in poor health is more than necessary," Babcock said. "Given the deteriorating health of James, a sentence within the advisory guidelines would be a life sentence."
Jensen's mobility is limited because of diabetes, and he has fallen numerous times while in custody, Babcock said.
Jensen faces separate state charges of possessing child pornography after authorities investigating the lawsuit's claims raided his retirement home and found 10 images of underage boys who were nude or engaged in sex acts.