A 42-year-old Whitefish man has been sentenced to prison for 100 years after being convicted of felony sexual abuse of children and sexual intercourse without consent.
Phillip Bruinsma was sentenced on Aug. 25 in Flathead County District Court, two years after he was initially charged following an extensive law enforcement investigation.
Judge Robert Allison sentenced to Bruinsma to two concurrent 100-year sentences to the Montana State Prison and restricted parole for 35 years. Bruinsma was designated a level three sex offender and was given credit for 889 days served in jail.
According to court records, local law enforcement received a tip in 2015 that a Whitefish man had posted on an online message board that he was offering to trade pornographic images of a number of children, ranging in ages from 8 to 15. During the course of the investigation, law enforcement found emails where Bruinsma offered to let other people have sex with the children.
“Have u ever had experience with a younger girl,” the email read. “I play around with all of them and will share them with likeminded guys.”
Another email featured graphic images and videos of men with children and included a description of how Bruinsma drugged the children. Law enforcement eventually found thousands of pornographic images that had been made by Bruinsma.
During the course of the investigation, one of the children Bruinsma victimized told law enforcement that Bruinsma had raped her five years earlier when she was just 11 years old.
Bruinsma was arrested and charged in March 2015. In February, Bruinsma pleaded guilty by way of Alford to felony sexual abuse of children and sexual intercourse without consent. An Alford plea occurs when a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence that, if presented to a jury, would likely result in a conviction.
During Bruinsma’s sentencing, multiple victims took the stand to testify about what Bruinsma had done to them. One of the girls, now 18, said she still has nightmares about her experiences.
“I feel anger, pain and shame because of what you did. Some days I cannot get out of bed because of what you did,” she said. “I don’t think you deserve to go to jail. I believe you deserve to die.
“I hate you,” she continued. “I hope this eats at you every waking moment. I hope all of your victims haunt you for the rest of your life.”
Another victim testified about how she turned to drugs and alcohol to suppress the memories of her childhood.
“Every time I used, I hoped and prayed that I would not wake up again,” she said. “When you get to prison, I hope they do to you what you did to us.”
Prosecutors and the defense jointly recommended two concurrent 100-year sentences to the Montana State Prison. However, there was disagreement on whether Bruinsma should be designated a level two sex offender or level three sex offender. Allison eventually settled on the latter.
“This is one of the worst sexual assault cases I have ever seen, and if Mr. Bruinsma isn’t a level three sex offender, than I don’t know who is,” Allison said.
Prior to sentencing Bruinsma, Allison looked into the audience with a message to the victims.
“Do not let this crime define you moving forward,” the judge said. “Go forward and live good, substantial and meaningful lives.”
The investigation into Bruinsma also resulted in charges against 30-year-old Brittany Stout, who had edited some of the pornographic images for Bruinsma. She was charged with felony sexual assault of children and sentenced to 10 years in prison on Aug. 24.
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