Alleged victims watch bail hearing

Former gymnastics coach could face child-porn charges in Josephine County
Jeffrey Scott Bettman, 54 appears in a monitor in Jackson County Judge Lorenzo Mejia's courtroom during a bail hearing. He faces Measure 11 child pornography charges in Jackson County. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore photo

A Southern Oregon gymnastics coach and sports photographer facing child- pornography charges in Jackson County for allegedly videotaping girls while they changed for photo shoots may be facing additional charges in Josephine County, court officials said.

Prosecutor J. Adam Peterson said at a bail hearing Thursday afternoon in Jackson County Circuit Court that Jeffrey Scott Bettman, 54, was a "flight risk," adding the District Attorney's Office has been cooperating with investigators in Josephine County regarding "11 different victims" there.

"He is looking at significant prison time," Peterson said.

Half of the courtroom was filled with alleged victims from both counties, their family members and concerned neighbors of Bettman.

All declined to comment on the case in court or after the proceedings.

Bettman has been held in the Jackson County Jail on $2 million bail since his April 10 arrest at his home outside Medford. That amount was reduced to $500,000 Thursday by Judge Lorenzo Mejia, who ordered Bettman to wear an electronic monitoring device and avoid all contact with minors should he make bail.

Bettman coached gymnastics at the Southern Oregon Gymnastics Academy and the shuttered Rogue Valley School of Gymnastics in the last decade. He most recently coached at Ultimate Sports Gymnastics in Grants Pass. Bettman also was a sports photographer, said Detective Josh Nieminen from the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force.

Bettman allegedly took videos of students while they were changing their clothes for private photo sessions at the gymnastics businesses over the past nine years. The images were taken without the victims' consent or knowledge, Nieminen said.

Bettman has been indicted on 30 charges: 10 counts of using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct and 10 counts each of first- and second-degree encouraging child sex abuse.

Using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct is a Measure 11 crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 70 months.

The images related to the Measure 11 charges represent 10 separate underage victims. Still photographs were created from the videos by Bettman for display in the production of child pornography, said Peterson.

Nieminen said police are still searching to determine whether there are more victims. But the detective stressed that only those students who booked private photo sessions with Bettman need to be concerned.

Bettman was one of several people targeted in an October sting operation after police discovered Bettman's Internet Protocol address had downloaded child pornography images, police said.

Once investigators realized Bettman's connection to the gymnastics clubs, he became a primary focus of the task force investigation, officials said.

A search of Bettman's home and computer identified the presence of what appeared to be child pornography created by Bettman in the form of videos of gymnasts changing their clothes, investigators said. The videos were found in several locations at Bettman's residence in the 1800 block of Camp Baker Road just outside of Medford, police said.

Bettman originally was arrested Nov. 5 on 10 counts each of first- and second-degree encouraging child sex abuse and 10 counts of invasion of privacy. He was released from jail later that week after a family member posted the required $25,000 on his $250,000 bail.

Bettman would have to post an additional $25,000 to be released from jail this time, Peterson said.

The 20 counts of encouraging child sex abuse pertain to child pornography that Bettman had downloaded from the Internet and shared. The images are not of local children, and are unrelated to the images he created from the photo sessions, Nieminen said.

Before coming to Southern Oregon, Bettman was a gymnastics teacher for more than 20 years for the Santa Barbara Spirals, a youth gymnastics team once run by the University of California at Santa Barbara.

A civil complaint was filed against Bettman and the University of California Regents, the university system board, in July 2000, according to an online case index from the Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

The complaint was for sexual abuse, according to University of California Regents meeting minutes from September 2000.

The case went to trial and the court dismissed the charges, a representative from the Regents said in November.

Bettman left Santa Barbara shortly after he was sued in 2000, and coached at the Southern Oregon Gymnastics Academy in Medford from 2003 to 2008, when he was fired for undisclosed reasons.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.



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