A Catholic priest who has led Risen Christ Parish in Evergreen for more than a decade is facing up to 10 years in prison if he’s convicted of possessing child pornography.
The Rev. Rudy Bullman, who is in his mid-60s, was charged Feb. 29 with felony sexual abuse of children.
Bullman had been placed on administrative leave by the Diocese of Helena on Dec. 16.
The case began to unfold last fall after it was initially reported that a Nintendo DS handheld video game system Bullman reportedly sold was found to have photographs of nude boys on it.
According to Montana law, anyone who “knowingly possesses any visual or print medium, including a medium by use of electronic communication in which a child is engaged in sexual conduct, actual or simulated” commits the crime of sexual abuse of children.
Bullman initially appeared in Flathead County Justice Court on March 13 and was released on his own recognizance. His arraignment is set for March 29.
The buyer of the game system reported the photos to the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 11, 2011, according to court documents. Bullman was interviewed by detectives on Dec. 16, 2011, at which point he allegedly admitted using the system to view gay pornography — but only of adults.
Bullman also consented to a search of his personal computer. Detectives allegedly found pornographic images of boys between the ages of 12 and 18. Court documents state that when the images came up, Bullman told detectives, “Well, those aren’t adults.”
He allegedly said child pornography turned up occasionally during his searches but denied searching for or viewing the material.
A total of 23 images in Bullman’s Internet cache file, where regularly accessed Internet content is saved for quicker recall, were analyzed by an agent with the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation and determined to depict children 16 years old and younger.
Renee St. Martin-Wizeman, director of communications with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena, said Bullman was placed on administrative leave the same day he was interviewed by detectives.
“What administrative leave means is that Father Bullman vacated the parish residence and has been residing in a non-ministerial setting, has not been participating in the ministry and has been receiving psychological counseling,” St. Martin-Wizeman said.
She added that he is also being advised by his attorney, which he retained privately.
Bullman was ordained in 2000 and served as a parochial vicar for roughly one year at the Cathedral of St. Helena in Helena. In July 2001, he was assigned to Risen Christ Parish in Evergreen, where he served until he was placed on administrative leave.
St. Martin-Wizeman said she was unaware of any prior problems with Bullman.
The Rev. Rod Ermatinger of St. Matthew’s Catholic Parish has been handling the scheduling of coverage for Risen Christ parish by senior-status priests in the diocese.
Reporter Jesse Davis may be reached at 758-4441 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.