Bozeman High School's head track coach was arrested Wednesday on charges of sending several sexually explicit text and photo messages to female students.
Gallatin County Justice of the Peace Wanda Drusch set James Michael Evans' bail at $50,000 Thursday morning.
Evans, who is also an assistant coach for Bozeman High's football program, was charged with felony sexual abuse of children and two counts of misdemeanor obscenity.
Prosecutors allege Evans, 29, began "sexting" one of his 15-year-old athletes in August and was trying to entice her to engage in sexual conduct, Bozeman police and school officials said in a Thursday press statement.
The charging document quoted about a dozen graphic text messages sent to one of his athlete's cell phones including, "Maybe I can break some rules. Depends on how good you are and whether you can keep a secret. Haha for now I wanna see how much you share over text."
Investigators said Evans also sent sexually explicit photos of himself to at least two students' cell phones.
The case came to light Monday when a parent of one of the girls reported the incidents to Bozeman High Principal Rob Watson, said Bozeman Police Chief Ron Price.
The investigation "happened exactly the way this sort of thing should have happened," Price said. "An involved, concerned parent" alerted the principal, who in turn reported the allegations to Trent Schumacher, the school resource officer. Schumacher and other Bozeman detectives conducted a joint investigation that resulted in Evans' arrest Wednesday.
In court Thursday morning, Gallatin County prosecutor Erin Murphy suggested Drusch set Evans' bail at $75,000.
"He abused his position of power to victimize this young girl," Murphy argued.
And there are other potential victims of the "very sexually explicit" messages, she added.
But Evans' attorney Al Avignone argued that $75,000 was "clearly excessive" and "oppressive."
Evans is the son of a "prominent businessman" in town, a graduate of Bozeman High and Montana State University and has "a broad-reaching family in this community" that will support him if he is released on bond, he argued.
"There will be a lot of eyes on him," Avignone told the judge.
After graduating from MSU, Evans served as an assistant track coach at Bozeman High for about four years before being named the school's head track coach in June.
Evans, who earns a $4,725 stipend for coaching track and about $2,000 as an assistant football coach, resigned from those positions Thursday morning, said Bozeman Schools Superintendent Kirk Miller.
To prevent this sort of crime, all Bozeman School District employees and all coaches undergo background checks, which include fingerprinting, Miller said.
"We have a very well-defined training program for all our employees, including use of electronic equipment," he said.
"Our concern lies with the students and families," Miller added. "We want to continue to show support for them until this is completely resolved. I'm concerned about creating a very safe atmosphere for all our students."
Watson referred all questions to Miller.
Avignone said his client would enter a not guilty plea when he appears before a District Court judge. That hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Evans was still in the Gallatin County jail as of Thursday afternoon.
Jodi Hausen can be reached at email@example.com or 582-2630. Read her blog at jhausen.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @bozemancrime. Staff Writer Gail Schontzler contributed to this story.