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Retired judge to hear evidence against longtime Utah defense attorney

Published May 30, 2013 3:31 pm

Steven Kuhnhausen accused of paying girl for sex with cash, drugs and alcohol.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

To ensure due process for longtime Utah defense attorney Steven Kuhnhausen — accused of paying a teenage girl for sex with drugs, money and alcohol — the court may look beyond Salt Lake County for a retired judge who does not know the defendant.

Once such a judge is found, Kuhnhausen will appear in 3rd District Court on July 11 for a preliminary hearing, at which prosecutors will present evidence against him.

Kuhnhausen, 65, faces 14 felony and misdemeanor counts of unlawful sexual contact with a 16- or 17-year-old and enticing a minor over the Internet related to an alleged four-month sexual relationship he is accused of having with a 17-year-old girl.

Kuhnhausen was not present Thursday as prosecutor Blake Hills and defense attorney Ronald Yengich discussed the details of the case. Kuhnhausen has not appeared in court since he posted a $50,000 bond and was released from jail in February.

In order to "spare the defendant and the alleged victim some embarrassment," Yengich suggested the girl's testimony might be taken before the preliminary hearing, so she would not have to testify in open court.

It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors would agree to this.

According to court documents, the victim told police that she and Kuhnhausen began having sex just after her 17th birthday, in August 2012, and continued through January of this year. 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.

"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.

Kuhnhausen, a 1977 graduate of the University of Utah Law School, was admitted to the Utah Bar Association 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