Posted: Sep 13, 2012 8:29 AM by Erin Schattauer - MTN News
BOZEMAN - Their voices sometimes shaky, sometimes strong, two young women took the stand in Gallatin County today and described how a former track coach robbed them of their trust in people.
James Evans, 30, a former coach at Bozeman High School was in court to be sentenced today after pleading guilty to two counts of sexually abusing children and one charge of tampering with evidence. Two years ago, information surface that Evans had been sending sexually explicit text messages and pictures to high school female athletes. He then reportedly tried to get rid of the evidence.
"It has affected every single aspect of my life," one of the victims, who is now 17 years old, said in court today.
She said she couldn't focus on school.
"The biggest thing was knowing that everyone knows who you are and having to be defined by that," she said.
She explained how it has also impacted her relationships with her family and other people.
"It's just hard for me to be able to trust someone again," she said, adding that the last time she did, she was manipulated.
Another victim who said she was a freshman when this started and is now a senior told the judge that she lost most of her friends and that she has a hard time trusting people now as well. After word of the incidents spread, people stopped being her friend and just wanted to know more details about what happened, she said.
"It took me a long time to forgive myself...I thought (God) hated me. I thought it was all my fault," she said. "I'm choosing to overcome and choosing to take that step to love and trust people. It's hard, but it's what I have to do."
The second young woman said this has affected her relationships with her family members as well, especially her younger siblings that look to her as a role model.
One of the girl's fathers also took the stand, saying this has affected their entire family.
"I can say that my family's been impacted, in every way bad. There's not really been a happy day in my home since the day this came across our plate. It's taken me a long time personally to even have the composure to sit across this room from him," he said.
Michael Evans, James Evan's father, testified on behalf of his son, saying this has been a "trauma" for his family.
"He's become a sorrowful, repentant and remorseful young man," he said.
"The biggest frustration in this entire procedure is that he's been unable to approach (the victims), to reconcile, to tell them his story," Michael Evans said. "He's kept this chain around him. He wants them to heal...and he's been unable."
But James Evans did get that chance today.
In a brief statement, Evans apologized, addressing the young women seated with their families in the courtroom.
"My first hope for all of you is...that you can love and be whole again, and that's when justice will be served. I'm so sorry," he said.
The courtroom was full with supporters of Evans on one side of the courtroom and the victims and their supporters on the other.
After a day-long hearing, Judge Mike Salvagni said he needed some time to go over the new evidence and testimony presented on Wednesday. He recessed the hearing until 3 p.m. tomorrow when he expects to impose the sentence.
The charges stem from several text messages Evans sent to underage girls. In court documents from Evans' arrest, one of the girls told police that she received a text message from Evans that stated "he would like to lick ice cream off her body."
Two girls said Evans sent them a photo of himself receiving oral sex. The one girl told police she also received a photo of Evans' genitals. Evans also reportedly asked the 15-year-old girl to send him a photo of herself.