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Key evidence in case against West Valley judge dismissed

By Pat Reavy | Posted - Aug 29th, 2013 @ 4:32pm

WEST JORDAN — A potentially key piece of evidence in the case against a West Valley Justice Court judge has been thrown out.

Judge Ronald E. Kunz, 50, was charged with misuse of criminal history record information, a class B misdemeanor, in West Valley Justice Court in 2012. According to charging documents, he discussed a BCI criminal history report of a defendant with a West Jordan police victim advocate, a court clerk and a City Weekly reporter.

On Wednesday, West Valley Justice Court Judge Brendan P. McCullagh granted a defense motion to suppress "all evidence of the contents" of a binder seized from Kunz's desk, as well as all evidence obtained because of the binder, saying that it violated the Fourth Amendment.

"The seizure was unreasonable," the judge ruled. "The court finds there were no exigent circumstances in the instant case to allow the items to be seized."

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The subpoena was not served on Kunz directly, his attorney Ron Yengich argued in court documents. Furthermore, the binder seized was in a locked drawer in Kunz's office in a secure area of the courthouse.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office was asked by the city of West Valley to review allegations of misconduct by the judge. The allegation was then investigated by the Utah Department of Public Safety, which turned its findings over to the district attorney.

An agent with the Utah State Bureau of Investigations said Kunz "was discussing aloud information obtained from (the defendant's) Bureau of Criminal Identification criminal history record," the charges state.

"BCI provides the West Valley Justice Court with access to individual criminal history records for the adjudication of cases that are before the court and not for release of that information to third parties after the adjudication of the case," the charges state.

The defendant involved had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of operating a vehicle without insurance and willfully failing to appear and was ordered to pay a fine.

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