The former Bozeman High track coach previously charged with sexual abuse of children was in court again Monday to answer to a new charge that he tried to coerce his victims into deleting sexually explicit messages he’s accused of sending to their cell phones.
James Michael Evans, 30, pleaded not guilty to the tampering charge in front of Gallatin County District Judge Mike Salvagni.
Deputy County Attorney Ashley Whipple amended the charges in November, dropping two misdemeanor charges of obscenity.
In October 2010, police claimed Evans tried to entice female athletes to engage in sexual conduct and sent three of them electronic messages and images with inappropriate sexual content. Evans resigned his coaching position the same day charges were filed against him.
The new tampering charges allege Evans told a girl, then 15 years old, “she had to back him up and advised her not to tell law enforcement anything,” the affidavit states. He also “told her to delete everything from her phone that might get him into trouble.”
In court Monday, defense attorney Al Avignone told Salvagni the amended charges “muck up” motions he filed last month to dismiss the case.
Avignone said he wants to file “a new round of motions.”
“Here we are a year later” presented with new evidence “and I have to deal with it,” he said.
In his court filings last month, Avignone contends detectives questioned his client without reading him his rights and without an attorney, despite Evans saying he wanted one present.
He also said the search warrants omitted key information that misled District Judge John Brown to erringly approve them.
For now, a four-day jury trial remains set to begin April 3, but Salvagni set a scheduling hearing for Monday with the expectation Ashley Whipple, the prosecutor trying the case, will be present. Deputy County Attorney Todd Whipple was sitting in for her Monday.
Avignone said he’d prefer more time.
“We were right on track,” he said. “I didn’t pull the switch…”
“I’m not going to push you,” Salvagni told him. “I just want to move this along.”
If convicted, Evans is facing a maximum of two life sentences for the two counts of sexual abuse and an additional 10 years for tampering. He could also be fined up to $70,000.
Jodi Hausen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2630.