BILLINGS, Mont. -

A former Livingston and Billings West High teacher and basketball coach faces federal charges alleging he sexually exploited children and distributed child pornography.
    
42-year-old Scott James Nichols pleaded not guilty to a 23-count indictment during a hearing Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby.
    
The indictment charges Nichols with two counts of sexual exploitation of children, two counts of attempted sexual exploitation, 16 counts of distribution of child pornography and three counts of possessing child pornography. The crimes are alleged to have happened in Yellowstone County between December 2012 and May 2013. Nichols was placed on paid administrative leave in May 2013 after school officials learned about the federal investigation. His contract wasn't renewed.
    
Nichols' attorney, Jay Lansing, declined to comment.