The Seattle Police Department closed the investigation into a former victim attorney who was accused decades ago of sexually abusing a child when he was a Catholic priest without inferring whether or not he engaged in wrongdoing.
The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) noted in its report released earlier this month that the lack of a finding was “no relief” for Garry Boulden, who had worked for the police department since 1989, “but that there was insufficient evidence to come to a conclusion.
In 2003, Spokane Police received a secondhand report alleging that Boulden molested a girl while he was a priest on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the 1970s and 80s. The Seattle Police Department was aware of the allegation against its employee, but took no action itself, the Seattle Times reported last year.
Confidential support for survivors
If you’ve experienced sexual assault and need assistance, you can call the 24-hour National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673). There is also an online chat option. King County survivors can call the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center’s 24-hour resource line at 888-99-VOICE (888-998-6423) or visit www.kcsarc.org/gethelp.
Spokane detectives closed the investigation at the request of the alleged victim, who was by then an adult. She sued the Diocese of Spokane shortly thereafter, and the lawsuit was settled under the diocese’s bankruptcy plan. Boulden’s name appeared on subsequent lists of dioceses of credibly accused priests while he continued to work for the police.
After clergy lawyers urged the Archdiocese of Seattle to be more transparent about previous cases and the Seattle Times asked about Boulden, former Police Chief Carmen Best put him on leave and asked the OPA to investigate in February. Boulden, 71, retired in September, according to the SPD. The OPA completed its investigation in August, but the case wasn’t closed until the end of the year.
Boulden denied the allegation to the OPA. His attorney, Anne Bremner, said she believed the diocese had determined the claim was believable without evidence.
Boulden was assigned to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the age of 28. He told the OPA that as a girl, he spent time with the alleged victim, liaising with community members. He said he saw her outside of church several times, including when he only went to a concert with her on his birthday, according to the OPA report. Boulden said her parents were aware of this and that there was “no particular reason” why they went alone.
“When he pressed it, he said that was exactly what was being done at the time. He admitted that she might have been under 16 for at least part of that time but thought she was over 16 when they went to the concert, “the OPA report said, adding that Boulden said,” Don’t, that this would have made a difference. ”
OPA director Andrew Myerberg wrote in the report that he found this statement “questionable”. He also noted that Boulden failed to explain why he believed the woman made up the claim.
The woman eventually declined to participate in the OPA investigation, according to the report. The OPA also struggled to gather information on how the diocese found the claim credible.
The OPA noted that after the woman reported to the Diocese of Spokane in 2002, then Bishop William Skylstad found the allegation credible and dismissed Boulden from the ministry. Boulden did not contest the decision, which Myerberg described as worrying.
Boulden and his attorney told the OPA they believed the decision was not based on rigorous scrutiny and that he was not given the opportunity to present his side of the story. Boulden said he had no objection to the determination because the report said he did not intend to return to the ministry.
An attorney for the Archdiocese of Seattle told the OPA that the decision appeared to be based solely on the bishop’s decision. The bishop “had no specific recollection of what was being done at the time to make the claim credible,” the report said.
Myerberg wrote that the lack of other public allegations against Boulden is relevant but does not detract from the credibility of the allegation being investigated by the OPA.
Boulden received recognition for his work following tragedies such as the Marysville Pilchuck High School shootings and aided the families of victims who were sexually assaulted and killed in several high profile incidents.