Utah judge found innocent of divulging restricted criminal info
A West Jordan judge has been found innocent of divulging restricted information about a man's criminal history to several people, including a newspaper reporter.
Ronald Kunz, 61, was charged last year in the West Jordan Justice Court with one count of class B misdemeanor unlawful dissemination of criminal history record information.
But following a bench trial last week, West Valley City Justice Court Judge Brendan McCullagh ruled Monday that prosecutors had failed to carry their burden to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Charging documents allege that in August 2010, Kunz met with several people, including a victim advocate, court clerk, and City Weekly reporter Stephen Dark, in an "out of court" meeting.
At that meeting, Kunz allegedly discussed the criminal history of Robert Wiker, a defendant whose domestic violence case was heard by Kunz the year prior.
"Those in attendance at the meeting were not parties to the case involving Robert Wiker but were apparently meeting with [Kunz] regarding concerns that they had with the case," charging documents state.
Dark had written an article and several blog posts prior to the Aug. 18 meeting detailing Wiker's case, mostly concerning the treatment of domestic violence cases in the justice courts, and Kunz's suspension of Wiker's 90-day jail sentence pending one year of probation and completion of domestic violence counseling.
According to court documents, Kunz told an agent with the Utah State Bureau of Investigations that the information he discussed with the group was obtained from Wiker's Bureau of Criminal Identification criminal history record, a record that serves to assist in the adjudication of cases, but is not for release to third parties.
Kim Well, spokeswoman for West Jordan, issued a statement Monday that the city is "pleased that after 16 months this case has come to an end so that all parties can move forward."
Ron Yengich, Kunz's attorney, said the case should never have been filed in the first place. Pointing out the Kunz had served on the bench for years, Yengich described him as a "good guy" and a fair judge who has a history balancing victim's and defendant's rights. Yengich added that the case highlighted an antiquated statute and would ultimately cost taxpayers money.
"It's a travesty that it occurred," Yengich said of the case. "To persist in this prosecution is silly and a waste of money."
Assistant Salt Lake County District Attorney Jeffrey Hall, who prosecuted the case, said he respects the judge's verdict in the case and looks forward to reading McCullagh's opinion, which should be issued in the coming days. Hall further explained that prosecutors only file cases when they believe they can meet their burden of proof.
According to the court docket, Judge McCullagh plans to file a written "Findings and Conclusion" in the case next week.
Nancy Volmer, spokeswoman for the Utah State Courts, said the verdict does not change Kunz's job status, since he was still hearing cases, despite the charge.
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