Washington man lands prison time for attempting to coerce minor for sexual activity in undercover investigation
BILLINGS – A 42-year-old Lockwood man was sentenced today to 120 months in federal prison followed by 15 years supervised release, for two counts of coercion and enticement of a minor, two counts of attempted coercion and enticement of a minor, and one count of distribution of child pornography. Scott James Nichols, a former Billings West High School basketball coach, pleaded guilty to all five counts in June of this year. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Watters handed down the sentence.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Montana Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ole Olson, the government stated that if the case had proceeded to trial, the government was prepared to prove that Nichols engaged in multiple Facebook chats with at least four adolescent girls ranging in age from 13 to 15 years old. Nichols posed as a high-school aged student or an adolescent girl during these chats. Using an alias, he requested that the girls send sexually explicit pictures of themselves to his cell phone, or, in one case, expose their genitalia to him on a web cam. Two of the victims were identified and the government was prepared to present their testimony at trial. The Facebook accounts associated with Nichols’ aliases were accessed from IP addresses associated with the Billings Public Schools and Nichols’ home computer. The Government would additionally have proven that Nichols sent images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct from the same aliases he used to request images from underage girls. The Government was prepared to present at least 16 emails with attached images. Finally, the Government would have offered expert testimony that a forensic analysis of multiple electronic devices owned or used by Nichols, including his personal and work computers and his cell phone, were used to engage in the prohibited activity.
This case was initiated under the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood initiative which was launched in 2006 to combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children. Through a network of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and advocacy organizations, Project Safe Childhood attempts to protect children by investigating and prosecuting offenders involved in child sexual exploitation. It is implemented through partnerships including the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The ICAC Task Force Program was created to assist state and local law enforcement agencies by enhancing their investigative response to technology facilitated crimes against children. Investigative agencies involved in this case include the FBI, the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Bozeman and Billings Police Departments.
Special Assistant United States Attorney Ole Olson prosecuted this case. Because there is no parole in the federal system, Nichols will have to serve at least 85% of his sentence before he is released from prison.