Phillip Kevin James Bruinsma, 42, was sentenced to two concurrent 100-year terms in Montana State Prison — accused of sexually abusing and raping children.
The sentence was issued by Judge Robert Allison in Flathead District Court as per a binding plea agreement on Aug. 25 following emotionally charged testimony from several victims. It was the conclusion of a more than two-year investigation.
Bruinsma, of Whitefish, won’t be up for parole for a period of 35 years. He was given credit for 889 days of time served.
Bruinsma was convicted by way of Alford plea to amended charges of felony sexual abuse of children and felony sexual intercourse without consent. An Alford plea convicts an individual who admits there is a chance that he or she could be found guilty at trial, but allows him or her to maintain innocence.
Bruinsma was designated as a level 3 sex offender, meaning that the likelihood of a repeat sexual offense is high and there is a threat to public safety. There was disagreement between the state and the defense regarding the designation, but ultimately Allison said, “If Mr. Bruinsma isn’t a level 3 sex offender, who is? This is the worst sex abuse case that I’ve ever seen in my career both as an attorney and judge.”
According to court documents, in 2015, Flathead County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by law enforcement in Texas on a tip that an individual had posted advertisements in an online message board reportedly offering underage girls for sex and to trade sexually explicit photos of them.
The user had posted an email address for other board members to communicate with him. A search warrant obtained by the Dallas Police Department showed emails had been sent to and from a Whitefish residence where Bruinsma lived.
Flathead County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jeanne Parker reviewed the emails. One email named individual victims between the ages of 8 and 15 and stated, “Have u ever had experience with a younger girl? I play around with all of them and will share them with likeminded guys. Let me know what you are interested in, should be able to set something up sometime. here’s some pics of the girls ...”
Parker reviewed the photographs identifying the victims and found the emails contained video files of a man having sex with a minor. The email described the videos, allegedly stating that with one of the victims, “I slipped her some ambien about an hour before I made these videos while she’s passed out ...” The email purportedly went on to discuss “trading” victims with other men to have sex with.
When Parker interviewed Bruinsma at the Whitefish residence, she showed him non-pornographic images of four victims that had been identified in the emails, whom he also identified, according to court documents. Bruinsma said he took at least one of the non-pornographic photos Parker showed him.
Parker subsequently identified thousands of pictures of child pornography contained in the emails that were sent from the Whitefish residence. The emails, stored on a server, were accessible by the owner of the email address, court documents state.
When law enforcement interviewed the minor who had been sexually assaulted by Bruinsma several years ago when she was 11 years old, she said he had reportedly given her alcohol before raping her.
Back in court, the first victim took the stand to testify and spoke to the broken trust and the destruction left in the wake of Bruinsma’s actions that affected not just her and her family, but “thousands of people.”
“I will never forgive you. I don’t have it in me. I will never forgive this and I will probably never recover — not fully — I’m going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life. And it’s because of you,” she said looking at him.
The victim said because of him she now faces each day with feelings of pain, anger and shame and that every day is a struggle just to get out of bed.
“But the fact that I am up here today ... I am rebuilding myself,” she said.
Through tears the victim tried to encapsulate the magnitude of her feelings.
“I can’t even describe how I feel,” she said, pausing, covering her mouth with one hand. Pushing her hair back she continued. “It’s a lonely existence being in the situation that we are in. It’s lonely. And it’s dark. And it’s terrible. And it’s terrifying.”
After voicing her hatred of him, his actions and the pain he inflicted, she said, “I will not let you destroy me. I will not let you take my life and I won’t let you take my family. We will get through this. We will stand together and get through this. We are strong. Even if you aren’t. You’re a coward.”
Another victim said she hadn’t planned to testify and looked downward, starting to cry. Looking up, her voice trembling, she said, “You ruined my life,” and tapped her chest. “I can never trust a man again. I dropped all my dreams and threw them in the trash.”
She explained the anguish she felt and said she turned to alcohol and drugs to “hide and kill” the memories.
“Every single time I took them, I prayed that I would never wake up again. And you can sit there and roll your eyes and pretend it doesn’t bother you ...,” but, lowering the tone of her voice she continued, “It will eat you from the inside out. You will rot away in that cell. I think you deserve that. That’s way too easy for you to go. Once you get in there they will do to you as you have done to many girls.”
Bruinsma declined to provide a statement or address the court.
Before issuing the sentence, Allison said he appreciated hearing from the victims, whom he then addressed.
“I can certainly hear and understand the harm and the pain this whole sad series of events is causing your lives. I hope once you leave here today you don’t allow this to define you any further — that you go out and have good, happy, substantial lives from this day going forward,” Allison said.
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.