Ex-Billings High School Coach Pleads Guilty to Child Pornography, Coercion, and Enticement Charges
BILLINGS, MT—Scott James Nichols, 42, of Lockwood, Montana, pleaded guilty today in Billings federal court to distribution of child pornography, two counts of coercion and enticement, and two counts of attempted coercion and enticement. Nichols pleaded to the five counts pursuant to a Superseding Information. On the child pornography count, he faces a mandatory minimum five to twenty years in prison, up to $250,000 dollars in fines, and five years to lifetime supervised release. On the four coercion and enticement- related counts, he faces a mandatory minimum ten years to life in prison, up to $250,000 in fines, and five years to lifetime supervised release. U.S. District Court Judge Susan P. Watters presided over the change of plea and set the sentencing hearing for October 7, 2015, in Billings, Montana.
In court filings, the government stated that if the case had proceeded to trial, it would have proven that around January 2013, a Bozeman police detective received a tip that an individual had solicited explicit images of underage females. Posing as a 16-year-old girl, the detective made contact with the individual on Facebook. The individual solicited sexual images from the detective posing as the young girl. The detective then executed a search warrant on Facebook and discovered the individual was soliciting many apparently underage females through various social networking website, e-mail addresses and a phone. Through a subpoena, the detective learned that the phone number was assigned to Scott James Nichols.
The detective learned that Nichols was, at that time, the Billings West High School Basketball coach and had recently been employed in the Livingston area as a coach. Further investigation revealed that Nichols was using several online aliases and posing as a teenage high school student. Under two aliases, Nichols asked underage females to send sexually explicit images to a specific phone number. Nichols was interviewed and admitted that the number was his. This was confirmed through the phone company.
An examination of Nichols’ phone revealed that he had used his e-mail to receive sexually explicit images from underage females. He also received and distributed child pornography from this e-mail address. Search warrants revealed that Nichols corresponded with underage females frequently through his e-mail accounts. He would contact them, ask their age, ask if they are alone, and would make sexual comments. He would then encourage them to send him sexually explicit images of themselves. One of the counts he pleaded to involves that type of conduct from a computer with an IP address connected to Billings West High School. The other offense involved Nichols chatting under a fake Facebook name with a young woman who identified herself as 13-years-old. He asked her to send pictures of private areas. That conduct was done from an IP address assigned to Billings West High School. Nichols also had sexual Facebook chats with the teen, who identified herself as 14-years-old. He asked her to send him a sexually explicit photo, which she did. Nichols also Facebook chatted with a girl identifying herself as 14-years-old. Nichols asked her to engage in sexual behavior on a webcam with him. Lastly, in relation to the child pornography distribution count, Nichols sent at least 16 e-mails with files attached containing images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. As part of his plea, Nichols forfeited his computers and phones used in the commission of the above crimes.
This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ole Olson and investigated by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, including the Billings Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.