Montana investigates sex abuse claims against school trainer
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana authorities have launched a criminal investigation into claims that a school athletic trainer sexually abused at least 18 students decades ago under the guise of boosting their athletic performance.
Attorney General Tim Fox said state investigators will assist Custer County officials as they examine the allegations in a lawsuit filed Friday against James E. “Doc” Jensen of Miles City.
Jensen, now 78, acknowledged some of the allegations and offered an apology after they were first reported by The Billings Gazette.
Jensen could not be reached immediately for comment Sunday by The Associated Press and it wasn’t known if he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
He worked part time as an athletic trainer at Custer County High School from the 1970s until about 1998. His accusers claim he performed nude massages and sexual acts on boys as part of what he called “The Program” to enhance their strength and testosterone levels.
Authorities urged others to help with the investigation by reporting their allegations to the Montana Department of Justice.
“The allegations against James Jensen are deeply troubling, and my office will do everything in its power to ensure justice is served,” Custer County Attorney Wyatt Glade said in a statement.
Some of the abuse allegations might not be subject to prosecution because of the amount of time that’s passed.
Because the investigation is in the early stages, Justice Department spokesman John Barnes said it’s too soon to say how the statute of limitations would apply.
In the late 1990s, a concerned parent reported to the high school that Jensen was performing hernia checks without having any medical qualifications, according to the lawsuit. Soon, Jensen was not working for the district, but it’s not clear how his employment ended.
The lawsuit against Jensen also names the Miles City school district and unnamed school officials on behalf of the 18 accusers and potentially dozens of others who are unknown.
Attorney James Rice, who is representing those alleging abuse, described Jensen’s actions as a “sophisticated system of ritual sexual abuse.”
A Billings law firm representing the school district said it was reviewing the lawsuit and that district officials were extremely concerned over the allegations.
A phone line and email address were established for people to report allegations: 406-438-2354 and email@example.com.