Austin sex offender pleads not guilty to sexting, inappropriately touching 12-year-old

(ABC 6 News) – UPDATE: An Austin man pleaded not guilty to charges of sexting and molesting a 12-year-old in Mower County Court Monday.

James Ray Watkins, 51, is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 15 for a pretrial hearing on charges of 2nd-degree criminal sexual conduct with a child under 14, as well as a charge of distributing sexual material to a child via internet and soliciting a child electronically.

A jury trial is scheduled to follow on Dec. 26.

Although Watkins was a registered sex offender after being convicted of raping a 4-year-old in August of 2014, he did not rise to the level of community notification, according to the MN Department of Corrections.

According to Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelsen, Watkins was registered as a predatory offender with Austin law enforcement.

However, only convicted sex offenders who are considered “higher risk” by the MN DOC merit community notifications and a place on the public registrant search, Nelsen said.

There are only 7 men who fit the criteria currently living in Mower County, according to MN DOC.

RELATED: Level 3 predatory offender relocates to rural Mower County – ABC 6 News –


(ABC 6 News) – An Austin man faces criminal sexual conduct charges after allegedly sexting and molesting a 12-year-old who visited his neighborhood.

According to court documents, James Ray Watkins, 51, allegedly met a 12-year-old girl at a bus stop near 6th Avenue NE, Austin.

On Sept. 7, Austin police heard from the child’s mother that Watkins had been messaging the child, spoke to her in person, and had been giving her snacks and money.

Watkins, a sex offender, was convicted of 1st-degree criminal sexual conduct, including penetration, with a 4-year-old child in August of 2014.

He was released from the Minnesota DOC in March of 2022, and has been on probation for the last year and a half.

According to court documents, Watkins’ conditions of release forbid him from any contact with juveniles.

A 14-year-old witness allegedly told police that Watkins regularly bought the 12-year-old food, that he knew where the child lived, and had brought meals to the residence.

The 14-year-old also told police she had overheard Watkins ask the child to go “skinny dipping” before, that he specifically video called the child after seeing the adults in the home leave, and told the 12-year-old to delete their calls and messages.

The 12-year-old alleged victim told police she had been talking to a man whose name began with “J,” although she didn’t know his full name or how he’d gotten her phone number, according to court documents.

The child said Watkins had begun talking to her about “normal stuff” and “snacks” in person, but had showed her videos of “sex stuff” over video chat.

A woman in the neighborhood told police she’d seen Watkins and the 12-year-old together 40-50 times, according to court documents.

The woman also said her daughter had said Watkins sent the 12-year-old videos of “what men and women do,” but she wasn’t supposed to tell anyone.

Later in the day the alleged victim’s mother told police the child said Watkins had asked to have sex with her and had groped her briefly.

On Sept. 8, Austin police arrested Watkins for suspected probation violation.

According to court records, Watkins admitted to speaking to the 12-year-old, but said he didn’t know her name, didn’t know where she lived, and wasn’t sure what her name was.

He admitted that he was not supposed to have contact with minors and was taken to the Mower County Jail, according to court records.

According to court records, while at the jail, Watkins agreed to speak to police again and admitted to sharing pornography with the child, but said he had not tried to proposition the child.

Watkins is currently held in the Mower County Jail on $100,000 bail with conditions, or $150,000 bail with no conditions.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 25.