Billings man gets federal prison term for sex assault on young teenage girl

Thursday, November 12, 2020
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James Robert Patterson in his 2019 booking photo (YCDF)

A Billings man will spend nearly the next 10 years in a federal prison and remain on supervision for 15 years for sexually assaulting a young girl.

James Robert Patterson, 22, received the sentence on Monday, Nov. 9. He had previously pleaded guilty to coercion and enticement.

The case began with the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office and initially led to Patterson being charged with two felony counts of sexual intercourse without consent, one felony count of sexual assault, one felony count of intimidation and one misdemeanor count of unlawful restraint.

The alleged crimes occurred in 2018 and allegedly involved Patterson using “force, intimidations and unlawful restraint,” according to court documents. State and federal prosecutors alleged that as many as four victims were involved. Patterson also used the SnapChat phone app to receive and send explicit photos of himself and at least one victim.

The intimidation charge alleged that Patterson threatened to shoot a 14-year-old girl “if she did not comply with his demand for sexual acts or if she told anyone about the sexual acts he perpetrated upon her,” according to court documents. The unlawful restraint charge alleged Patterson prevented the girl from getting out of a vehicle by repeatedly locking the doors when she tried to open them.

Those charges were dismissed by the Stillwater County Attorney’s Office this past January, based on the fact that he had been charged federally in the case.

Jurisdictional issues resulted in the case being charged federally.

In court documents filed prior to the sentencing hearing, Patterson’s federal defense attorney Gillian Gosch express concerned for his client in a prison setting, who he described as having mental health issues and being easily manipulated. Gosch also took issue with the characterization of girls who were called “victims” for crimes that were not prosecuted.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Zeno Baucus argued the opposite, writing that Patterson’s crimes were specifically designed to seek out insecure victims and manipulate them with threats of violence for the purpose of sex. The prosecutor also pointed out that an evaluation performed on Patterson showed that he is “well above average” chance of a sexual recidivism. Baucus had lobbied for a 15-year sentence and lifetime supervised release.


The 14-year-old girl broke off contact and shortly thereafter, learned that Patterson was actually 20 years old, and not 16, as he had told her, according to court documents. In late November or early December of 2018, the girl learned that a friend was possibly dating Patterson. The girl sent the friend a photo of Patterson along with the following message, via Snapchat:

“Beware!! Local pedo/rapist if he trys to contact u and u r 16 or under I recommend calling 911,” according to court documents.

The girl later learned that Patterson had seen the photo and was threatening to shoot her. In December, the girl received a phone call from someone purporting to be from the Billings Police Department who told her to “stop harassing” Patterson, according to court documents. The girl believed it was actually Patterson.

It was at this point that the girl reported the assaults to a counselor and then to the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office.

Additionally, the girl obtained a temporary order of protection against Patterson. At a hearing in Stillwater County Justice Court, Patterson allegedly testified “under oath that he had sex with the victim on three different occasions, calling the sex ‘consensual,’” and that he had told the girl to not tell anyone because of her age, according to court documents.

In the federal court documents, prosecutors alleged that there were a total of four victims.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the case was partially 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 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.