A federal court has ruled against a woman suing the government after an on-duty police officer raped her.
The former Bureau of Indian Affairs officer, Dana Bullcoming, is serving a three-year prison sentence in Minnesota for a criminal conviction in the matter. He is scheduled for release in January 2021.
The woman is raising a child who resulted from the rape.
In a ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Watters adopted a magistrate judge's findings from July that said the BIA and the U.S. government could not be held liable for the rape. Although Bullcoming was on duty and in uniform at the time, he committed the rape outside the scope of his employment, the court found.
The judge also rejected the woman’s request for clarification on Montana’s legal definition of employment scope.
The plaintiff had asked to put the question before the Montana Supreme Court, but Watters said there was no dispute about where state law stands.
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“Currently, Montana defines scope of employment to mean ‘in furtherance of his employer’s interest’ or ‘for the benefit of his master,’” the judge wrote in her order.
Sexual assault is clearly outside that definition, the judge found.
Bullcoming never responded to the lawsuit and so, by default, the woman can claim damages against him.
That amount has yet to be set, but the woman’s attorney, John Heenan, said he did not expect much. Bullcoming has yet to pay child support, he added.
Attorneys for both sides did not immediately respond to a request for comment.