BILLINGS- There was frustration and new court filings on Wednesday in a massive sex abuse case that dates back 30 years in the town of Miles City.
According to new documents filed in Custer County District Court Wednesday, the Miles City Unified School District argues that their longtime athletic trainer was not a full-time employee and the school district should not be liable for the alleged molestation of possibly hundreds of students.
Lawyers who represent 31 victims in the case have asked a judge to force the school district to hand over evidence and documents in the process of discovery.
A civil lawsuit was filed in September by dozens of former Custer County High School students who claim they were repeatedly sexually abused by the districts longtime athletic trainer James Jensen, 78, from the mid-1970s until 1998.
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The suit says that the Miles City Unified School District knew about the alleged abuse by Jensen and failed to prevent students from being molested.
In response, the district filed its own lawsuit against Jensen for deceiving the school administrators.
Jensen is currently sitting in the Yellowstone County Detention Center facing federal and state charges relating to child pornography and coercion.
Still, frustrations are high as a co-lawyer for the victims Dan Rice said Wednesday that the school district is not handing over vital information for the case.
“If you have the information, provide it. If you don’t have the information, say you don’t have it,” said Rice.
Rice said they are looking for answers to questions they’ve asked in court proceedings pertaining to the details about the district’s insurance policy and documents relating to student conduct investigations involving Jensen and information about what led to Jensen’s termination from the district.
However, Rice said the district has objected to all requests.
“But to deny that you don’t have it and to refuse to provide it as the basis of that denial leaves us not knowing if the evidence is there, but it’s being withheld,” he said.
Rice said along with that, the district seems to indicate that it wasn’t responsible for Jensen’s alleged sexual abuse, saying he wasn’t a full-time employee.
“When you send your kids to school you expect that the school district is going to supervise the employees, whether they are full time or part-time employees or volunteers,” he said.
With a scheduled 10 months left in the discovery process in the case, Rice worries the district is dragging its feet.
“They promised that they were going to work around the clock to get to the bottom of what happened,” said Rice. “We don’t have anything from their investigation into Jensen and they say they investigated him but there are no documents supporting that assertion.”
MTN News reached out to attorneys for the Miles City Unified School District to seek comment in response and will update this story with a response.
-Andrea Lutz reporting for MTN News