A Kalispell woman was sentenced to 10 years in Montana Women’s Prison for her reported involvement editing pornographic photos of children following emotional and tearful testimony from a victim and a mother of some of the victims.
Brittany Stout, 30, was sentenced in Flathead District Court on Thursday, Aug. 24, by Judge Robert Allison having previously been convicted by way of Alford plea to felony sexual abuse of children. 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.
Stout was given credit for 30 days time served and designated as a Level 1 sex offender, meaning that the likelihood of her re-offending is low.
Allison’s sentence was a departure from a plea agreement recommendation of 10 years with 8 years suspended. The defense attempted to strike some conditions including one preventing Stout from accessing the internet or any devices where she could gain internet access.
According to court documents, Flathead County Sheriff’s Office received a request to investigate sexual exploitation of children in 2015. Sgt. Jeanne Parker identified Phillip Bruinsma as a suspect. After reviewing his emails she learned that, in December 2014, Bruinsma sent an email with 23 images attached to an email address belonging to Stout.
The email stated “Here’s a few for u 2 edit sweetie,” and described some of the attachments as images of Bruinsma having sex with an 11-year-old girl, court documents state. The email also discussed the price Bruinsma would pay for each edited image. Parker identified a number of the images as child pornography.
Parker spoke to Stout, who reportedly stated that Bruinsma had emailed photographs of children for her to edit, which she had then enlarged and cropped based on his instructions before emailing them back.
The mother of some of the victims was the first to take the stand and spoke to the trauma the incident has inflicted on her children.
“I don’t know who you are, I don’t know if you have children or not, but what I do know is that you helped victimize and ruin the lives of children, mine included. I don’t know how you sleep at night,” she said, her voice trembling. She asked the judge to consider issuing a longer sentence.
During the mother’s testimony, the victim — who was next to testify — got up from her seat and fled the courtroom. She later returned to take the stand and described how she suffered from progressively worsening depression as the events surrounding the child pornography case unfolded.
“This has destroyed me as a person and hurt my family,” the victim said, holding her arm across her face, crying. “I don’t think it’s fair she gets so little time because what this has done to me personally and my family is unthinkable.
“I feel she made choices. This was her decision. She could have said no. She could have turned it in and she didn’t. And she needs to pay for those crimes,” the victim said, pausing, struggling to take breaths and talk between tears.
After speaking of the turmoil that has spread throughout her family as a result of the incident, she covered her face with both hands. After a moment, she brought her hands down and looked over at Stout.
“I don’t know you — and I don’t know what kind of person you are, but a person who could do this to somebody’s babies — do this to a child — does not deserve to be walking on the streets — doesn’t deserve to have a life in my opinion.”
While the victim said she hoped for the best for Stout, she also said she hoped that Stout wouldn’t forget the lasting repercussions of her actions, which was why she decided to take the stand.
“I hope you realize what you have done. I hope that this eats at you for every day for the rest of your life. I hope that you get what you deserve because I know I’m going to have to deal with this and fight this fight for the rest of my entire life and it is not easy. I fall apart daily. I hope you feel the pain that I feel, and I hope you can understand why I’m up here doing this,” the victim said.
Stout was the final person to testify, maintaining that while it was her email, she had loaned her phone out and wasn’t aware of what was occurring. She also maintained that when she was questioned by law enforcement she had been “heavily into methamphetamines,” and couldn’t remember her admissions.
“I am very remorseful for what has happened to your family, but I can say I was not the one that edited the photos, but it was in fact my email,” Stout said, latter adding, “I understand I took the Alford plea and I will take responsibility that it was my email that it happened through, but I did not know about it and I did not openly give permission for it.” Stout said.
“I just want them to know that I’m sorry and that’s what happened,” Stout said, becoming emotional.
Before Allison issued his sentence, he spoke to Stout’s excuse of loaning out her phone.
“That is basically the usual story in a child pornography case where child pornography images are found on someone’s computer or phone. Oh I’ve been hacked, or I loaned someone my phone and they must have done it,” Allison said. “There’s no other defense to make.”
Allison also spoke to how the court interprets an Alford plea — that while it convicts, she still gets to maintain innocence and the accountability piece of the sentence technically never occurs.
Bruinsma will be sentenced Friday, Aug. 25, at 1:30 p.m.
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.