A former Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer will spend three years in federal prison after he admitted to using his position of authority to coerce a woman into having sex and impregnating her.
Dana Michael Bullcoming, 43, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in Billings after he pleaded guilty in December to deprivation of rights under color of law. Under the terms of a plea agreement reached with federal prosecutors, two counts of lying to federal officers were dismissed at the sentencing. The government also agreed not to prosecute Bullcoming for sexual abuse.
On Oct. 31, 2015, the victim reported to law enforcement that her mother was driving while drunk, according to court documents. Bullcoming responded, and, after finding that the victim’s mother was safe, he left the scene and went to talk to the victim at her home in Lame Deer.
After she admitted to being drunk, Bullcoming threatened to call social services and arrest her for child endangerment, court documents state.
The victim told Bullcoming that she had started a new job and that she would lose it if arrested.
Bullcoming then told the victim that “something had to be done,” charges state.
The victim asked Bullcoming if he meant “sex," and he said yes.
Bullcoming and the victim then had unprotected sex, and the victim became pregnant as result of the encounter.
The victim addressed Bullcoming at the sentencing hearing, saying the experience had traumatized her and taken a toll on her marriage once she realized she was pregnant.
"I am sure he has done this to others," the victim said, choking up at times during her statement. She added, "To this day I still don't trust police officers. Is it a good cop or a bad cop?"
The victim said she also lost her job as a result of the pregnancy and received a urinary tract infection that, because she was pregnant, was unable to treat with medication.
"I'm not going to allow this to take me down," she told Bullcoming, adding that she hoped that by coming forward she could "empower other women" who are sexually assaulted.
In her sentencing, Judge Susan Watters agreed with defense attorney Steve Babcock that the 36-month sentence was sufficient, despite Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Dake's argument that Bullcoming should be sentenced to 10 years in prison, the statutory maximum for the offense.
Beyond the damage Bullcoming did to the victim and her family, Watters said he had also damaged the reputations of other law enforcement officers.
"Every other officer has to answer for that conduct," she said.
Yet Watters also pointed to Bullcoming's lack of a criminal history prior to the sexual encounter with his victim, as well as the fact he had enrolled in substance abuse treatment after the incident.
"This does seem to be a real aberration as far as how you've led your life up to this event," she said.
Although she called Bullcoming's actions "so very wrong on so many levels," Watters questioned Dake's logic in asking for the maximum sentence, noting that she would have to hand down the same punishment on a repeat offender who committed the same crime.
"Everybody can't warrant the maximum sentence," she said.
She told Bullcoming that he appeared sincere in his statement to the court, in which he apologized to the victim and her family and in part blamed his behavior on substance abuse problems he was dealing with at the time.
"When I look back on that, I am disgusted with the person at that time," Bullcoming said, "because that's not me."
Also in line with the defense's request, Watters recommended Bullcoming be incarcerated at the Federal Prison Camp in Duluth. Babcock had requested the Duluth facility, arguing it's better equipped to provide the former law enforcement officer protection from other inmates who may target him.
Bullcoming will also be required to spend three years on supervised probation after his release and complete sex offender treatment.