Flathead Youth Hockey Coach Pleads Not Guilty to Additional Rape Charges

Jami Leslie James is charged with two felony counts of rape filed in Butte-Silver Bow District Court and four felony counts in Flathead County District Court that involve three youth hockey players

By Maggie Dresser
Jami Leslie James appears in Flathead District Court in Kalispell on March 30, 2023. James is charged with sexual intercourse without consent. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

A Columbia Falls youth hockey coach accused of raping two young boys at hotels in Butte pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual intercourse without consent Wednesday in Butte-Silver Bow District Court.

Jami Leslie James, 47, entered the pleas before Judge Robert Whelan on April 5 almost a week after pleading not guilty to four felony counts of sexual intercourse without consent in Flathead County District Court. The six rape charges involve three victims who were under age 10 during the time of the alleged incidents, which spanned both county’s jurisdictions. The alleged incidents occurred between 2019 and 2021.

James’ Kalispell-based attorney, Scott Hilderman, was present in court via Zoom.

According to an affidavit filed in Butte-Silver Bow District Court, James allegedly raped an 8-year-old player and covered the victim’s mouth when he tried to scream at a Butte hotel during a hockey camp in 2019.

The victim told authorities during a forensic interview that a similar incident happened in the Flathead Valley during a different hockey camp in 2020, records state.

According to court documents, a second victim said he was staying in a Butte hotel in the fall of 2021 when James allegedly confronted him when he got up to get water, asking the young hockey player, who was under age 10, to go with him so he could take his temperature. James then assaulted the player, records state.

On March 30, James pleaded not guilty to four felony counts of sexual intercourse without consent during an arraignment hearing in Flathead County District Court before Judge Robert B. Allison.

According to an affidavit filed by Deputy Flathead County Attorney John Donovan on March 1, James hosted youth hockey players, who were attending a camp, at his home in Columbia Falls where he allegedly used “something” to penetrate the two boys in the summer of 2020.

During a forensic interview with authorities last December, one victim described staying overnight at James’ home, where the coach allegedly climbed into the player’s bed and assaulted the boy, causing him to scream, according to charging documents.

Another 8-year-old victim told authorities in January about a similar overnight episode at James’ home during hockey camp in the summer of 2020. When the youth player woke up to use the bathroom, James confronted him and asked if the boy “wanted to be fast like the other players?” James physically carried the boy into a bedroom and raped him, causing the boy to cry, records state.

The same victim told officers about a second event that occurred while camping on a boat at Hungry Horse Reservoir during the summer of 2020 where a similar incident occurred, records state.

A third incident occurred two weeks after the camping trip, again at James’ home and again involving a sexual assault in which James allegedly raped the player. The victim cried and asked for help at the time of the incident, records state, but James covered his mouth.

James is currently booked in Butte-Silver Bow Detention Center on a $750,000 bond. He is scheduled to stand trial in Flathead County District Court in October.