The Seattle Police Department oversight agency has closed its investigation into a former victims lawyer who was accused of sexually abusing a child decades ago when he was a Catholic priest without concluding whether he had committed a fault.
The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) indicated in its report published earlier this month that the lack of a conclusion was “not an exemption” from Garry Boulden, who had worked for the police department since 1989. The OPA said his investigation raised “significant issues” but that there was not enough evidence to come to a conclusion.
In 2003, Spokane Police received a second hand report alleging that Boulden assaulted a girl while serving as a priest at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the 1970s and 1980s. The Seattle Police Department was aware of the allegation against his employee but did not take action himself, as the Seattle Times reported Last year.
Spokane detectives dropped the investigation at the behest of the alleged victim, who was then an adult. She sued the Diocese of Spokane soon after, and the lawsuit was settled as part of the diocese’s bankruptcy plan. The name of Boulden appeared on the dioceses’ subsequent lists of priests credibly accused, while he continued to work for the police department.
After advocates for victims of clergy abuse urged the Archdiocese of Seattle to be more transparent about past cases and the Seattle Times asked about Boulden, former police chief Carmen Best put on leave and request the OPA is due to investigate in February. Boulden, 71, retired in September, according to the SPD. The OPA completed its investigation in August, but the case was not closed until the end of the year.
Boulden denied the allegation to the OPA. Her lawyer, Anne Bremner, said she believed the diocese had determined the allegation to be credible without evidence.
Boulden was assigned to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary when he was 28 years old. He told the OPA that he spent time alone with the alleged victim when she was a girl, as part of his efforts to connect with members of the ward. He said he had seen her outside the church on several occasions, including when he went to a concert with her just for her birthday, according to the OPA report. Boulden said his parents knew about it and that there was “no particular reason” for them to go there alone.
“When it was stressed, he said that was exactly what was 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: “It’s not that it would have made a difference. “
OPA director Andrew Myerberg wrote in the report that he found this explanation “questionable.” He also noted that Boulden did not explain why he believed the woman made up the allegation.
The woman ultimately refused to participate in the OPA investigation, according to the report. The OPA also had difficulty gathering information on how the diocese determined the allegation to be credible.
The OPA found that after the woman reported to the Diocese of Spokane in 2002, then-bishop William Skylstad determined the allegation to be credible and excluded Boulden from the ministry. Boulden did not challenge the ruling, which Myerberg said was concerning.
Boulden and his lawyer told the OPA they believed the decision was not based on rigorous scrutiny and that he had not had a chance to present his side of the story. Boulden said he was not opposing the decision because he had no plans to return to the ministry, according to the report.
An attorney for the Archdiocese of Seattle told the OPA it appeared the decision was based solely on the bishop’s decision. The bishop “had no specific recollection of what was done at the time to find the allegation credible,” according to the report.
Myerberg wrote that the absence of other public allegations against Boulden is relevant, but does not diminish the credibility of the allegation the OPA investigated.
Boulden has been praised for his work in the wake of tragedies like the Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting, and he has provided support to the families of victims who have been sexually assaulted and killed in several high-profile cases.