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SD man gets 40 years for raping child during video chat: Bullis eligible for parole in 2033

MITCHELL, S.D. — A Mitchell man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for raping a young child while video chatting online.

Joshua Bullis, 31, appeared in court Friday at the Davison County Public Safety Center in Mitchell. Judge Tim Bjorkman sentenced Bullis to 70 years in prison but suspended 30 years.

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“My purpose in that sentence is to try to ensure that you spend the rest of your life either in custody or on parole supervision,” Bjorkman said, addressing Bullis during the hearing.

Bullis will first be eligible for parole in December 2033, according to Bjorkman.

Bullis pleaded guilty to first-degree rape in January for sexually abusing a young child while video chatting on the Internet between Aug. 14 and Nov. 5 at his home in Mitchell. In exchange for Bullis’ guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss other charges of sexual contact with a child younger than 16 and manufacturing child pornography.

In an interview with police, Bullis admitted he engaged in at least seven separate video chat sessions on the Internet involving him and a young child, according to court documents. The videos were streamed live on the Internet and were viewed by other Internet users.

Bullis also told police he engaged in at least one sexual act with the child, court documents say.

Prior to sentencing, Davison County State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins told Bjorkman that Bullis’ case is one of the most disturbing he has ever been involved in.

“The conduct of the defendant is reprehensible and almost unthinkable,” Miskimins said.

Miskimins recommended that Bullis be ordered to serve between 40 and 50 years in prison, but stopped short of recommending a life sentence — the maximum sentence allowed for Bullis’ crime — because it was Bullis’ first felony conviction.

Bullis’ court-appointed attorney, Donna Bucher of Mitchell, said Bullis is extremely remorseful for his actions and has been completely forthcoming during the investigation.

“He will be the first one to tell you that what he did was horrible and reprehensible,” Bucher said.

He added. Bullis was a victim of physical and sexual abuse as a child and has never properly dealt with the problem.

“I think Josh has sold himself short his entire life,” she said. “From the time he was abused, both physically and sexually, Josh believed he wasn’t worth it.”

Bucher suggested Bullis’ sentence should include opportunities for counseling and rehabilitation.

The victim’s attorney, Doug Papendick of Mitchell, said Bullis’ crime is different from other instances of sexual abuse because the abuses were published on the Internet.

“Perhaps unwittingly, the victim is victimized forever,” Papendick said.

Bjorkman acknowledged that Bullis is also a victim of physical and sexual abuse, but said that doesn’t diminish the severity of his actions.

“You’ve passed on this abuse to another generation by committing this crime of almost unspeakable depravity,” Bjorkman said.

Bjorkman recommended, as part of Bullis’ sentence, that Bullis receive sex offender counseling as soon as possible after being admitted to the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. He also will be required to pay $1,616.25 in restitution for the psychosexual evaluation that was conducted prior to his sentencing.