E-mail Story   Print Story
  Comments (2) Total Friday Apr. 18, 2014
 
County Drops Sex Abuse Charges Against Priest
Not enough evidence to go to trial, county attorney says
Rudy Bullman, a Catholic priest in Kalispell, appears in Flathead County District Court on April 19, 2012, for his arraignment. Bullman pleaded not guilty to the charge of sexual abuse of children. File photo by Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
A Kalispell priest charged with felony sexual abuse of children has received a deferred prosecution agreement from the Flathead County Attorney’s Office, which means he will not face trial or incarceration.

Rev. Rudolph Carl Bullman was charged with child sex abuse last February after a woman called the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office the previous October to report that the handheld gaming system she purchased from Bullman had images of child pornography on it.

The Diocese of Helena placed Bullman on administrative leave on Dec. 16, 2011, when it learned the priest was under investigation.

Bullman pleaded not guilty to the charges in April 2012. He told investigators that he used the gaming system to look at gay pornography online, but the sites he visited had disclaimers that everyone was at least 18 years old.

Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan said Bullman told investigators that while perusing the sites, sometimes child pornography would pop up, and he would delete it.

Corrigan said state crime lab computer forensic teams determined from the hard drive on the priest’s personal computer that the websites Bullman visited did have the age disclaimers the priest said they had, and it was also possible for child porn to simply pop up on the sites as well.

The computer techs told Corrigan that if they were called to trial, they would relay this same information. To be convicted on child pornography charges in Montana, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect intentionally and actively searched out and collected the images.

“It was possible Mr. Bullman’s story was accurate,” Corrigan said. “That being the case, I don’t have a case.”

In Corrigan’s experience, child porn offenders typically have hundreds if not thousands of images secreted away on their computers. Bullman had “very few” images, and they weren’t hidden, Corrigan said.

Another critical factor in deciding on a deferred prosecution agreement was the fact that no one came forward during the course of the investigation and after the charges were filed to allege that Bullman abused them or was improper at all, Corrigan said.

“There is not a shred of evidence, not even a rumor, that he’s ever molested a child,” Corrigan said. “No one ever came forward to say he was inappropriate.”

But instead of merely dismissing the charges or run the risk of having a judge dismiss the case at trial, Corrigan said the deferred prosecution agreement would allow his office to keep an eye on Bullman’s activities.

“I think it’s important that the public knows that he didn’t walk simply because he was a priest,” Corrigan said. “That had nothing to do with it.”

The three-year agreement includes requirements that Bullman completes a counseling course; to allow his computer to be searched every six months; to continue with a spiritual support group; and that he will not have a position of authority over anyone under the age of 18.
“I think he’s going to be watched very closely by the church,” Corrigan said.

When the deferred agreement was initially announced, Corrigan said he received public feedback denouncing the idea, but he asserted that he would have pursued the charges if he’d had the evidence.

“This is not simply allowing a priest a free pass,” Corrigan said. “If I’d had the evidence that could establish he was collecting child porn on purpose I would have taken him to trial.”

Bullman is currently living in Missoula. A former millworker from Libby, he was ordained as a Catholic priest in 2000, and took over as the pastor at Risen Christ Parish in Kalispell in 2001.
 
On 01-17-13, Westside2 commented....
Thank you Molly and Flathead Beacon for shedding more light on this story and thank you Ed Corrigan for wisdom and service to Flathead County.  Reporters at the Interlake wish they could publish this.
 
Kellyn Brown
Kellyn Brown2h
@kellynbrown
"If we made decisions on permits this way in MT, our economy would grind to a halt" @GovernorBullock on #KeystoneXL delay
Dillon Tabish
Dillon Tabish3h
@djtabish
Decision on XL Pipeline likely delayed until after midterm elections http://t.co/XLjGSYAZjS
Molly Priddy
Molly Priddy1h
@mollypriddy
@ilikemints http://t.co/Mxeep0u63r
Tristan Scott
Tristan Scott16 Apr
@tristanscott
Your Survival Guide To Coachella http://t.co/hlyov5FZjv via @IamJessicaLima http://t.co/0b5csXZiN8
Flathead Beacon
FB Headlines34m
@flatheadbeacon
Baucus Casts Wide Shadow Over Montana Senate Race http://t.co/KATSG942LL