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James E. Jensen

Jensen

A former Montana high school athletic trainer accused of sexually abusing students plans to plead guilty to a federal charge of coercion and enticement of a minor.

James "Doc" Jensen Jr.'s public defender filed a motion Thursday to change his plea from not guilty. There is no plea deal with prosecutors.

Under federal law, Jensen faces at least 15 years in prison.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Cavan has set a Tuesday court hearing in Billings.

The federal indictment from December focuses on Jensen's actions from 1995 until 1999. It says Jensen used materials from the internet to persuade students that his program involving various sexual activities would improve their athletic performance.

The charge against Jensen is related to accusations in a civil lawsuit by former Custer County District High School students that he groomed and sexually abused them while he was the school's trainer from the 1970s through the 1990s.

Jensen admitted to some of the abuse during a September conversation with The Gazette after the suit was filed.

State investigators and Custer County officials said all of the potential abuse of minors happened outside the state's statute of limitations, so they were unable to charge Jensen with those crimes.

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However, Jensen now faces child porn charges after investigators allegedly found images of boys as young as 9, including some engaged in sex acts, in his apartment.

"One thing that we could not promise our clients when they approached us was that we could put Jensen in jail for what he did to them. It is a testament to our clients' courage and decision to speak up," said Bryant Martin, an attorney for alleged victims in the civil suit. "Their civil action was able to shed light on other crimes that Jensen is now being criminally punished for."

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