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A Billings judge Tuesday sentenced a 45-year-old man to 30 years in prison for sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl over a period of six months in 2012 and for having hundreds of images of child pornography.

Yellowstone County District Court Judge Michael G. Moses sentenced James Hubert Hopkins to a total of 50 years in the Montana State Prison, with 20 years suspended, for two counts of felony sexual assault and one count of sexual abuse of children.

The judge also ordered Hopkins, who pleaded guilty to the charges in July, to complete two phases of sex offender treatment in prison and designated him a Level 2 sex offender.

“This is a disturbing case,” Moses said, launching into a 30-minute review of the case before issuing a sentence. “It’s unacceptable to society, it’s unacceptable to everyone in this room and it’s unacceptable to this court.”

The victim was present for the hearing, along with her mother, who testified and said she agreed with the sentence issued, which was recommended by Chief Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Juli M. Pierce.

“James, you and I were friends, and you betrayed that friendship by what you did to my daughter,” the victim’s mother testified. “I don’t understand how you could do that to any one person, any child.”

She described how the abuse of her daughter prompted her to move out of state, and how last December — just before Christmas — her daughter had to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital because she had started hearing voices in her head telling her to hurt herself and others.

Moses discussed the woman’s testimony and a number of factors in making his ruling, including Hopkins’ blatant denial of the severity of the sexual abuse.

“I think she’s pissed because I’m not with her anymore,” the judge said, reading a direct quote from a statement Hopkins made about the victim to a probation officer.

Pierce also commented on Hopkins’ denial of the severity of the abuse.

She said he told an evaluator that the abuse was “just touching,” happened “maybe four times” and was the result of him “being stupid.”

“This is more than being stupid,” Pierce said. “He’s a child molester.”

Pierce also discussed in graphic detail the nature of some of the child pornography that was recovered and that Hopkins apparently found online. Some of the images, she said, have been reproduced and shared online thousands, even hundreds of thousands of times and continue to victimize their subjects.

Hopkins, who appeared emotional on and off through the 90-minute hearing, chose not to make a statement. Instead, he gave a written statement to his attorney, Regional Deputy Public Defender David Duke, to read for the court.

“To my wife and son, I want to say I’m sorry for all the pain I have caused. To my victim, I am truly sorry for all the pain I have caused you,” Duke said, reading the two-sentence statement.

Duke asked the judge to consider a sentence that would have totaled 50 years in Montana State Prison, with 30 years suspended.

The case against Hopkins started in November 2012, when the victim’s mother reported her daughter had been sexually assaulted, charging documents state.

The girl told her mother that “Daddy James” — identified as Hopkins, a longtime friend of the mother’s — had sexually assaulted her.

Hopkins and his wife, Kimberly Hopkins, would baby-sit the girl at a Billings hotel while the girl’s mother went to work, court records say.

Police executed a search warrant at his residence and recovered a cellphone, digital camera, video camera and other electronic devices.

Forensic analysis of Hopkins’ phone and the phone’s memory card revealed 166 photos of the victim, according to prosecutors. Investigators also found 377 images of child pornography.

Hopkins downplays his interest in child pornography, according to testimony from Mike Sullivan, director of South Central Treatment Associates in Billings, who did a psychosexual evaluation of Hopkins for the court.

Sullivan, under questioning from Pierce, also described in graphic detail the victim’s recollection of the sexual abuse and some of the pornography found at Hopkins’ residence, including some that he said promoted incest and rape.

Hopkins has no prior felony convictions, but he has eight children with six different women — some of whom have reported prior child sex abuse, according to Sullivan.

Hopkin’s life over the last 15 years is a “pretty good metaphor for poor judgment,” Sullivan said, describing the man’s history of substance abuse, unstable relationships and inability to keep a job.

Hopkin’s case is unique because it involves both the “exploitation of the rape of children” through child pornography and “hands-on” offenses against a child victim, Moses said.

“She gets to live with that for the rest of her life,” he said. “It’s pretty difficult to think of another case in which the nature and degree of harm is any worse than this particular case.”

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City news reporter for the Billings Gazette