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Longtime Utah attorney admits to sex with teen

Published January 30, 2014 4:10 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Longtime Utah defense attorney Steven Kuhnhausen, who was accused of having a four-month relationship with a teenage girl in which he paid her for sex with drugs, money and alcohol, has pleaded guilty to twice having sex with the girl.

In a deal with prosecutors, Kuhnhausen pleaded guilty Friday in 3rd District Court to two third-degree felony counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old. Prosecutors, in turn, dropped 12 additional counts — six felonies and six misdemeanors — against the 66-year-old lawyer.

Kuhnhausen could face up to 10 years in state prison for the unlawful sexual conduct, but, according to court documents, prosecutors will recommend against prison time when Kuhnhausen is sentenced in April.

Judge James Blanch will ultimately determine whether or not the attorney serves time behind bars.

According to court documents, the teenager told police that she and Kuhnhausen began having sex just after her 17th birthday, in August 2012, and continued through January 2013. The girl said the attorney would pay her with money and gifts.

Search warrants reveal that investigators believe the teen was introduced to Kuhnhausen by a mutual acquaintance, who had provided the attorney with prostitutes on several occasions in the past.

Kuhnhausen had requested a "90-pound female," the warrants state. The acquaintance told police he "interpreted that to mean [Kuhnhausen] wanted younger girls," the warrants state.

Beginning in October 2012, investigators began receiving information from a confidential informant that a 17-year-old was being pimped out to Kuhnhausen, according to court documents. The informant was a prostitute who told investigators that Kuhnhausen had been her regular client.

After investigating phone calls between the teen and the acquaintance, and surveilling the attorney's home, investigators brought the teen to the police station for an interview in February 2013.

"Generally, every time she would go to [Kuhnhausen's home], they would have a couple shots of Patron or Jagermeister, smoke a little weed and have sex," the search warrants read. The teenager also told police that Kuhnhausen's weed "wasn't that good" and that he also gave her marijuana cookies.

She said he was aware of her age because she told him she wasn't old enough to buy smoking papers, for which the minimum age is 18.

When police ultimately searched Kuhnhausen's home, they found at least four grams of marijuana inside a prescription bottle with his name on it, as well as a purple glass bong, according to the warrants.

No drug charges have been filed against Kuhnhausen.

He was originally charged with eight counts of third-degree felony unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and six counts of misdemeanor enticing a minor over the internet.

Kuhnhausen, a 1977 graduate of the University of Utah Law School, was admitted to the Utah State Bar in 1978.

He is best known for his involvement as a defense attorney for members of the John Singer family, in particular, matriarch Vickie Singer, in the years following the polygamous clan's 1988 bombing of a Mormon chapel in Summit County. That bombing led to an armed standoff between law enforcement and Addam Swapp and his family, during which Corrections Officer Fred House was shot and killed.

In addition to criminal defense work, Kuhnhausen handles family law and divorce cases.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae