Bret Butler appears in court at the Boulder County Jail in August.
Bret Butler appears in court at the Boulder County Jail in August. (Camera file photo)

A former Naval Academy midshipman convicted of soliciting sexually explicit photos from underage girls online was sentenced Friday to 10 years of probation, which includes no contact with anyone under 18.

Bret Michael Butler, 22, of Gunbarrel, told Boulder District Court Judge Andrew Macdonald, "I recognize my transgressions in this case and use this as an opportunity to improve myself both morally and mentally."

Those transgressions were detailed by Boulder police, who recovered more than 20 graphic images of children on Butler's cell phone and computers, including a desktop that Butler said the Navy issued him.

Investigators said Butler posed as a girl to chat with underage girls, asked some of them to send him explicit photos and then shared those photos with other users online.

In February 2013, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tipped Boulder police that Butler was possibly sexually exploiting minors, and officers arrested him six months later.

While out on a $50,000 bond in the case, Butler was arrested again Jan. 7 on suspicion of DUI and speeding. He was later convicted of DWAI.

Butler's lawyer had asked Macdonald not to sentence his client to a work-release program. The judge granted that wish but made clear the court's opinion on sexual exploitative criminals.

"The aggravating thing here is that the nature of these charges are so abhorrent to society," Macdonald said. "The participation in these chat rooms and all this other stuff just perpetuates it. It's a very insidious and awful crime."


Butler has family, including both parents, who have worked at NASA, and he told Macdonald he, too, aspires to become an aerospace engineer. According to Navy officials, Butler has been separated from the academy since December 2012.

"You're very young, and you have your whole life in front of you," the judge told him. Macdonald noted that Butler's case was odd, as he's been convicted of sexual exploitation but not officially classified as psychopathic or sexually deviant.

Offering a possible explanation, Butler's stepfather told the judge that Butler was simply "a little naïve about things."

"He knows he did something wrong," the stepfather said. "But I know he will do right. He always does right to those around him."