One of the hardest things about being the victim of former Bozeman High School track coach James Evans was showing up to track meets after his arrest, said one of his victims.
“When you go to a track meet, you know the coaches and other athletes know you for that,” she said, breaking into tears. “It was really hard to get past that and I never really did.”
A second victim said the former coach used her religion to manipulate her.
“He told me God’s OK with what we’re doing,” she said.
But now, both girls said, it’s time he pays for his crimes.
“He knows it wasn’t right, and he needs to be sorry and he needs to fix it,” one girl said. “And it will take a lot for that because he was a pretty twisted guy, and I want him to get better.”
Evans will be sentenced today by Gallatin County District Court Judge Mike Salvagni. The sentencing follows a hearing that ran almost all day Wednesday, where the judge heard witnesses from both sides.
Evans pleaded guilty to two counts of sexually abusing children and one count of tampering with evidence. He was charged with trying to entice the two female athletes to engage in sexual conduct, sending them electronic messages and images with inappropriate content. Once arrested, he tried to persuade the girls to delete the evidence.
At his sentencing, Evans’ attorney, Al Avignone, said for the past two years, since being arrested in 2010, Evans has wanted the opportunity to apologize to the girls face to face but was barred by court order from contacting them or their families.
Wednesday he got his chance.
Standing in front of Salvagni, Evans faced his victims and their families, his voice shaking.
“I’m sorry this has taken two years to get here,” Evans said, also breaking into tears. “I am so deeply sorry for my actions … There is no excuse for any of it. I will live with it the rest of my life. My first hope for you is full healing and restoration.”
Witnesses who testified on Evans’ behalf spoke of him as a remorseful man who realizes his mistakes and who has worked hard to repent and move on.
“What I began to believe and hope for was that, at the end of the day, when he emerges, that he is a whole man, a functioning man,” said Evans’ father, Michael Evans. “Somebody who understands the depth of his decisions and is committed to never, ever repeat those mistakes again. And I believe that’s the man I’m looking at today.”
But Deputy County Attorney Ashley Whipple wanted to make sure Evans pays a price for his actions.
“They loved him and they felt loved by him,” Whipple said. “They felt special and they felt cared for. This man used that feeling as an in-road to abuse the kids sexually.”
Whipple recommended Evans be committed to the Montana Department of Corrections for five years, followed by 15 years of probation, as well as serve 30 days in jail and register as a sexual offender.
Whitney Bermes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2648.