Judge Denies Bail Reduction for Youth Hockey Coach Accused of Rape

A Flathead County judge kept the bail for Jami Leslie James at $500,000; defendant has a total bail of $750,000 from separate charges filed in Butte-Silver Bow County

By Maggie Dresser
Jami Leslie James appears in Flathead County District Court in Kalispell on Aug. 14, 2023. James is charged with multiple counts of sexual intercourse without consent. The alleged victims are minors. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

A Flathead County District Court judge has denied a bail reduction motion for 47-year-old Jami Leslie James, a Columbia Falls youth hockey coach accused of raping two young boys at camps in 2020.

Judge Robert B. Allison at an Aug. 16 bail hearing kept the amount at $500,000 with all prior terms and conditions remaining in place.

James pleaded not guilty to four felony counts of sexual intercourse without consent at a March 30 arraignment hearing in Flathead County District Court. Separately, he pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of sexual intercourse without consent in Butte-Silver Bow District Court on April 5 where his bail is set at $250,000.

“Given the nature of the offenses, the potential sentence involved, the somewhat limited community ties of the defendant to the Flathead, and given the fact that there are two alleged victims – that raises concerns for the community, and I am going to deny the motion,” Judge Allison said.

James’ defense attorney, Scott Hilderman, argued that his client had been employed prior to the allegations, his wife and children lived in the Flathead, he would stay at a residence in Lake County and would not be considered a flight risk.

“We recognize the charges are of the most serious in nature,” Hilderman said. “There was never any allegation of this in the past.”

Deputy Flathead County Attorney John Donovan argued that James was a flight risk given the mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison if he was convicted. He was also concerned about the seriousness of the allegations that involved multiple victims in two counties.

“The allegations are that when Jami was hosting the hockey camps, he abused children,” Donovan said. “That’s terrifying and concerning to the safety of the community.”

According to court documents, James hosted youth hockey players, who were attending a camp, at his home in Columbia Falls where he allegedly had sexual intercourse without consent with two 8-year-old boys in the summer of 2020.

Two victims separately told investigators last December that James assaulted them at his home and during a camping trip at Hungry Horse Reservoir, records state.

James has also been charged with two additional felony counts of sexual intercourse without consent in Butte-Silver Bow District Court. Those charges involve one of the same victims in Flathead County, as well as a third victim, according to documents.

Flathead County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested James on Feb. 6 and transported him to the Butte-Silver Bow Detention Center.

James has since been transported to the Flathead County Detention Center, where he is currently detained. His total bail remains at $750,000.

James is scheduled to stand trial on Feb. 12 in Flathead County District Court.