Utah attorney jailed for paying teen for sex with money, drugs
Courts • Steven Kuhnhausen, 66, will spend 120 days in jail, register as sex offender.
Published: April 29, 2014 01:56PM
Updated: April 30, 2014 08:41AM
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Steven Kuhnhausen

The attorney stood in the courtroom Monday, as he had many times before.

But it was all different this time.

This time, he didn’t offer an apology on behalf of a client. He spoke, he said, from his own heart.

“I hate this, and I hate myself for what I did and the pain I’ve caused everybody,” said Steven Kuhnhausen, a prominent defense attorney who admitted to having sex with an underage girl in exchange for drugs and money. “I feel guilty knowing the effect this has had. And I’m not blaming anybody but myself.”

Kuhnhausen was ordered Monday to serve 120 days in jail, followed by 90 days of house arrest and three years of probation.

He was handcuffed on the spot, led from the courtroom floor by two bailiffs despite his attorney’s request that he have time to sort out his affairs before beginning his sentence.

In January, Kuhnhausen pleaded guilty 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.

They also recommended that Kuhnhausen be sent to jail, not prison, though the maximum sentence he could have received Monday was up to 10 years in state prison.

The victim in the case, a teenager who allegedly told police that she and Kuhnhausen began having sex just after her 17th birthday, in August 2012 and continued through January 2013, did not appear for the attorney’s sentencing.

But prosecutors said she had asked he be sent to jail.

According to charges, the girl told police Kuhnhausen would pay her for sex with money and gifts.

“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,” according to search warrants in the case. The teenager also told police that Kuhnhausen’s weed “wasn’t that good” and that he also gave her marijuana cookies.

Prosecutor Blake Hills told the judge the girl’s relationship with the attorney has “placed her on a path that would lead only to the most abject misery.”

“It can end no other way,” he said. “His actions played a great role in that.”

The teen has not sought counseling, and defense attorney Ron Yengich said on her social media accounts, it appears she has “continued doing something that started long before she met Mr. Kuhnhausen.”

Several of Kuhnhausen’s colleagues and former clients wrote letters to the judge asking for leniency, a couple sat in the gallery.

Kuhnhausen’s daughter cried quietly as her father was led away in handcuffs.

“This is not a happy day for me, it’s not a happy day for anyone in this courtroom,” the judge said. “This is an offense that troubles me a great deal and largely has to do with the fact that cases having to do with prostitution and underage people raise particular concerns for me. [...] I do think incarceration is necessary.”

Once he is released from jail, Kuhnhausen will be required to register as a sex offender, submit to random drug and alcohol tests, undergo treatment and commit no crimes.

Yengich said in the time since his client’s arrest, Kuhnhausen has worked to turn his life around by giving up his law practice and using his time to, instead, volunteer at a legal clinic in St. George, where the attorney now resides.

Should Kuhnhausen violate the terms of his probation, he runs the risk of being sent to prison.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae