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Jury convicts Puyallup-area musician of growing pot but acquits him of leading organized crime and money laundering

Post by Adam Lynn / The News Tribune on Aug. 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm with 6 Comments »
August 20, 2012 2:07 pm
Ungerbuehler (Photo by TNT photographer Lui Kit Wong)

A Pierce County jury on Monday convicted Stephen Wesley Ungerbuehler of a felony, but the former bassist for the hard rock band Metal Church was mostly smiles as he left the County-City Building in downtown Tacoma.

Ungerbuehler had been charged with three felonies, including leading organized crime and money laundering. A conviction for leading organized crime, the most serious count, would have carried a prison sentence of about five years.

As it stands, he could face as little as no time in jail when he’s sentenced Sept. 28 on a single count of unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance. His lawyer, Jay Berneburg, said in court Ungerbuehler likely qualifies for first-time offender status and a sentence of 0-90 days in jail because he has no prior criminal record.

“The big ones went away,” a beaming Ungerbuehler told supporters as he left court following the reading of the verdict.

Jurors deliberated for two hours following a three-week trial before rejecting the prosecution’s argument that Ungerbuehler, who’s traveled the world playing rock ‘n’ roll, was the leader of a pot-growing enterprise that raked in profits he laundered through his personal bank accounts.

Berneburg argued and Ungerbuehler testified that he helped a friend sick with cancer grow a marijuana garden so she could use the pot as medicine. Ungerbuehler probably sealed his own fate on the drug charge by admitting on the stand that he raised and possessed more than the 15 plants allowed by law for those authorized to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes.

It was a long contentious trial, with some of that acrimony spilling over into Monday.

Deputy prosecutor Karen Platt argued that Ungerbuehler, who’s been out on bail pending trial for two years, should be jailed until sentencing.

“I think it’s time the defendant went into custody,” Platt said.

Berneburg said his client has shown up for every court date and was not a flight risk. He asked Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson to release Ungerbuehler on his personal recognizance.

Cuthbertson said he would allow Ungerbuehler to remain free until sentencing if he obtained a rider from a bail bond company by 3 p.m. today.


Leave a comment Comments → 6
  1. princessnancy says:

    Not at all surprised by this. I believe he is guilty.

  2. dirtydan54 says:

    Well the princess nancy, why should you not be the first to cast a stone?

  3. Chelsi83 says:

    Princessnancy you can believe what you want, but being on the jury panel I can tell you we made the right decisions based on the evidence the state provided.

  4. princessnancy says:

    Chelsi83 — I have no problem at all believing this man is guilty and that the jury made that decision based on the information they were given. I believe the jury system is a fair system; I have no doubt that it is.

  5. brett987654321 says:

    How much did this cost? What are we really getting in return for all the money spent on this trial and possible incarceration? I wish Deputy prosecutor Karen Platt and her office would spend our money a little more wisely.

  6. Regfool2 says:

    Brett: Well, that raises a question, doesn’t it?
    Anger management classes versus budgeting classes.

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