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Child rape charges filed against Flathead hockey coach

by MIKE SMITH, Montana Standard
| March 22, 2023 1:00 AM

BUTTE — A Flathead County youth hockey coach charged with raping a minor in a Butte motel in 2019 now faces five additional rape charges involving children — one filed in Butte-Silver Bow County and four filed in Flathead County.

A prosecutor in Butte-Silver Bow said Wednesday the additional sexual intercourse without consent charge against 47-year-old Jami Leslie James in Butte involved another underage victim.

Prosecutors in Flathead County have also charged James with four counts of rape alleging incidents in 2020 involving two boys attending his hockey camp. They were 8 years old at the time.

It wasn't clear Wednesday whether the charges in each county involve the same victims.

Butte-Silver Bow issued a warrant for James on Feb. 3 and he was initially jailed in Flathead County on that. He was transferred to Butte and has been jailed here since Feb. 10 with bond set at $250,000.

Bail was increased to $750,000 based on the new charges in Flathead County. Prosecutors say he will be arraigned in District Court in Butte in the coming days and then be transferred back to Flathead County to be arraigned on charges there.

According to the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, James said he moved to Montana in 2016 and launched the North American Hockey Academy in 2017. His program was located on U.S. 93 and boasted nearly 700 students within a few years, he told the Inter Lake in 2020.

Prosecutors in Butte-Silver Bow allege James raped a boy at the Butte Plaza Inn on Harrison Avenue sometime around Sept. 20-22 in 2019. The initial charge provided no details and only said the victim was under the age of 16.

Documents providing more details behind that and the additional charge in Butte are not yet public but should be soon. The charges were filed by Deputy County Attorney Ann Shea.

Flathead County prosecutors have filed an affidavit with details of what they believe happened there.

According to it, one boy was attending a hockey camp conducted by James in the summer of 2020 and stayed overnight at his house in Columbia Falls. James climbed into the bed with the boy one night and inserted something into his rectum, the charging document states.

He allegedly did the same to another boy, once in a bedroom at James's house, once in the living room and once when they were camping at a lake the boy said was named "horse something," according to prosecutors.

The boys talked about the incidents during forensic interviews done this past December and January, according to the affidavit filed by John Donovan, a deputy county attorney in Flathead County.

James told a detective on Feb. 6 he hosted a hockey camp in Flathead County in the summer of 2020 and kids would stay at his house at Columbia Falls. He also said he camped with one of the boys at Hungry Horse Reservoir.

Because of the alleged victims' ages, each count carries a maximum 100-year prison term. According to the Flathead County affidavit, the court could not suspend or defer imposition of the first 25 years of such a sentence and James would not be eligible for parole during that time.