Boulder police arrest 21-year-old Naval Academy deserter on child pornography charges

BOULDER, Colo. - Boulder police have arrested a 21-year-old AWOL Naval Academy cadet on two charges involving child pornography after they say he posed as a girl on the Internet.

Bret Butler, 20, faces felony charges of sexual exploitation of a child/distribution and sexual exploitation of a child/possession of materials. He was arrested at his home in Boulder County on Thursday with the assistance of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.

The investigation began in February, after police received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that Butler possessed pornographic images of children. 

During the investigation, police found that Butler is a student at CU-Boulder.  Their investigation also found that Butler portrayed himself online as a juvenile female in order to communicate with other juveniles. Once he established communication, he requested sexually explicit photos and then shared them online with other users.

Police arrested Butler at his apartment on Thursday. Forensic examinations of Butler’s computers and cell phone revealed that he possessed more than 20 sexually graphic images of children, police said.   The children appeared to be from 6 to 15 years of age.

One of the computers had been issued to Butler by the United States Naval Academy, where he had been a midshipman for several years. He is currently AWOL (absent without leave) from the Naval Academy, and the school has been notified of Butler’s arrest.  His Twitter profile, last updated in 2011, said he was studying Aerospace Engineering.

Butler is being held at the Boulder County Jail under a $200,000 bond.

Anyone with information about this investigation is asked to contact Detective Jack Gardner at 303-441-1851. Those who have information but wish to remain anonymous may contact the Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or 1-800-444-3776. Tips can also be submitted through the Crime Stoppers website at www.crimeshurt.com. Those submitting tips through Crime Stoppers that lead to the arrest and filing of charges on a suspect(s) may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000 from Crime Stoppers.