A felony sexual abuse of children charge against a former Flathead priest was dropped this month, after prosecutors reached a three-year agreement with the accused man. Rudy Bullman will have to meet a list of conditions over the next three years, including being screened for antidepressant use, routine checks for pornography on his computer, and he can’t hold a position of authority over minors.
Bullman had been accused of having child pornography, and had pled not guilty. According to the deferred prosecution agreement, “…it appears that the execution and implementation of this agreement is more beneficial to society and to the Defendant over the long term than continued prosecution of this matter.”
The agreement was approved by Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan, who did not return a call from NBC Montana on Tuesday.
NBC Montana reached out to Bullman’s attorney, who explained that the agreement was reached because there was no evidence that Bullman ever actively looked for or viewed child porn. She released the following excerpts from a report by a computer expert hired by Bullman’s legal team:
“Experiences working past cases involving child pornography have always shown a very obvious interest in “collecting” favorite images and cataloging, sorting and accessing them repeatedly over time. This activity is very apparent when researching user activity in the ntuser registry hive(s). No activity of this kind was noted in this investigation. All images of a suspicious nature were located in web browser cache or in unallocated (deleted) space. No images were found anywhere on the system that required any manual input from the user. This means that not a single image, movie, etc. was saved to the system for later viewing or accessed multiple times.
“[T]he evidence presented does not show proof of intent to actively seek and collect images containing child pornography. All of the questionable images found on Mr. Bullman’s system were located in web browser cache. This suggests that a website containing thumbnails (small images representing a higher resolution image) was presented in response to a search request. Mr. Bullman does not appear to have attempted to view any of these images in higher resolution, or to have saved any of these images for later viewing. Further, the viewed pages containing questionable images did bear a banner stating that all subjects were of legal age.
Bullman was put on leave after the Diocese of Helena found out that he was under investigation for alleged child porn. According to court records, someone who bought a video game system from Bullman in Fall of 2011 reported to authorities that there were pornographic images of boys on the system. Investigators searched Bullman’s computer, and found similar images.
Reactions to the dropped charge have been mixed. The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has criticized the decision.
“Every person should be judged the same, and where we feel like that the average auto mechanic would have gone to jail, we feel this priest also should have gone to jail,” said Barbara Dorris, Outreach Coordinator for SNAP.
Others, however, remain supportive of Bullman, like Kalispell resident Ruth McMillan.
“I’ve gone to confession with him a lot and everything…Why is he condemned if he’s innocent? If he’s innocent why does he have to have those rules?” said McMillan.
Bullman served Risen Christ in Kalispell’s Evergreen area for roughly ten years. A Diocese spokeswoman says he retired in March and holds no active ministry duties.