Editor's note: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing for some readers.
Throughout the legal wrangling over a lawsuit filed by 32 men alleging they were sexually abused by Miles City athletic trainer James “Doc” Jensen, school officials have insisted they knew nothing about Jensen’s long history of abuse.
As recently as March 12, school attorneys said in a court filing the district “had no information regarding specific students or of sexual abuse.”
But, one former student-athlete testified in a recent deposition that he reported at least 12 times to district coaches in the early 1980s that Jensen was touching him inappropriately, according to a motion filed by attorneys for the defendants Friday in Custer County District Court.
“I made it perfectly clear with (Miles City high school coach and teacher Bob Dickson) why I felt that (Jensen) was touching me inappropriately,” testified the man, who now works in law enforcement. “I told him that (Jensen) touched my genitals.”
Each time he suffered an athletic injury, the man testified his coaches required that he see Jensen for treatments. When he objected, telling his coaches the treatments were sexually abusive, his coaches told him to “suck it up,” he said.
Later, when he again told Dickson in the presence of a second coach, Bo Laird, about the sexually abusive “treatments,” he was told “to go get treated by him or I wouldn’t be able to play.”
The Billings Gazette has a policy of not identifying the victims of sex crimes. The Gazette knows the man's name and where he works in law enforcement, and has verified the information with attorneys in the case.
Jeana Lervick, an attorney for the school district, said the witness' testimony isn't true.
"Point blank, I can tell you the school district has evidence to dispute the points made in this filing," she said Friday.
Jensen’s abusive ‘Program’
Jensen has been named in a lawsuit, along with Custer County District High School and the Miles City Unified School District.
Jensen was the high school’s athletic trainer for more than 25 years, beginning as a volunteer and later as a paid employee, although he had no specific training or credentials.
During his time at the school, he developed what he called “The Program,” a system of grooming young victims with promises to enhance their athletic abilities by boosting their testosterone. He told the boys he could increase their testosterone by masturbating them. These “treatments” occurred both in a training room inside the school’s locker room and at Jensen’s home where victims say he provided them with video games, pornography, and alcohol.
Jensen also participated with the school’s approval in performing mandatory annual physicals of athletes, although he was not qualified to give physicals, the suit alleges.
In federal court in Missoula, Jensen pleaded guilty to a single count of coercion and enticement of boys for sexual purposes. In the plea, Jensen's attorney acknowledged there were “probably a hundred" victims in the case.
Ten state felony charges have also been filed against Jensen for allegedly possessing pornographic images of boys as young as age 9.
‘I knew that was wrong’
In his sworn deposition, the man who said he repeatedly warned his coaches of Jensen’s abuse, said he was active in football and wrestling throughout his four years at the Miles City high school in the early 1980s.
When he was injured, coaches would send him to Jensen for “rub downs” that were supposed to be therapeutic massages.
Jensen would begin by rubbing the injured area.
“But, his hand would always kind of go up into your shorts and always at least rub my genitals,” the man testified.
“I was 14 or 15 at the time. I had no idea how to deal with that,” he said.
On another occasion, Jensen digitally penetrated his anus.
“It hurt. I remember just kind of crying out a little bit,” he said.
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The man said he was young and naïve about sexual matters.
“But, it embarrassed me because it was a man. I knew that was wrong,” he said.
Despite the victim’s multiple complaints, the coaches did not report the abuse to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services as required by law, the lawsuit states.
Jensen’s departure unclear
In December 1997, Jack Regan, who was then the Miles City high school's vice principal, got a call from a concerned parent describing Jensen’s interaction with male athletes as inappropriate.
The school district’s attorneys have insisted the parent’s concern was about Jensen’s lack of qualifications as an athletic trainer, and that his "rub down" massages made some students uncomfortable.
"So, while some administrators may have known there may be some concern the massages were making some people uncomfortable, they didn't know what about the massages was making people uncomfortable," Lervick, the school district attorney, said Friday.
But Regan, during a recent sworn deposition, said he understood the caller’s concerns were that Jensen’s inappropriateness was “of a sexual nature.”
Three days after the phone call, Regan and three other school officials including the school district superintendent met with Jensen to deliver a memo with specific conditions to Jensen’s future interaction with student-athletes. The six directives in the memo address not Jensen’s qualifications as trainer, but his interaction with boys.
Jensen was ordered not to give “body rub downs” to students unless a third person was able “to maintain a line of sight to the activity.”
Jensen also was no longer allowed to have boys visit his house or stay the night unless another adult was present.
And, he was to cease a “mentoring program” in which boys participating with him in trainer duties could earn a varsity letter in athletic training.
“However, none of the administrators took any affirmative action to ensure that the directives were followed by Jensen,” attorneys for the plaintiffs said in a recent court filing. “None of the administrators recall informing the coaches, teachers, parents or students of the directives to ensure they were carried out.”
Lervick told The Billings Gazette recently that shortly after the memo was signed, Jensen simply quit coming to school. Jensen's contract as a trainer was not renewed for the following year, she said.
Jensen, however, continued to be paid by the district until at least April 1998, according to court documents. Jensen also appears in various newspaper articles about the school’s athletic programs in January, February, March and as late as September 1998. One news article in March 1998 described Jensen recruiting students to earn a letter as assistant athletic trainers.
Student athletic trainers
One of those student athletic trainers testified last week in a deposition that he participated in Jensen’s “Program” until well into the spring of 1998. Jensen told him hours spent in “The Program” counted toward earning a varsity letter in athletic training.
“Thus, a component of lettering in the student trainer program included being sexually assaulted,” states the newest filing in the case.
In May 1998, five months after Jensen was ordered to end his mentoring program, the district’s activities director Ted Schreiber presented the victim with a varsity letter in Jensen’s mentored program.
The man said he was sexually assaulted by Jensen at least 50 times after the December 1997 memo.
Lervick said it wouldn't have been unusual for students in the athletic trainer program to receive their varsity letters after Jensen left the school.
"We have no knowledge of Jensen being in that (mentoring) program, in that role, after the December memo," she said.
A third victim in the most recent court filing testified that he was sexually assaulted by Jensen in August 1998, eight months after the memo.
Had the 1997 memo been enforced, the man would not have become one of Jensen’s victims, the lawsuit states.