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Pierce County hard rock bassist gets credit for time served in pot-growing case

Post by Adam Lynn / The News Tribune on Oct. 26, 2012 at 4:12 pm with No Comments »
October 26, 2012 4:12 pm

A Pierce County judge this afternoon sentenced a local hard-rock musician convicted of growing pot to credit for time served.

Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson said the three days Stephen Wesley Ungerbuehler served immediately after his arrest — plus $800 in court costs — should be enough punishment for the former bassist for heavy metal act Metal Church.

A jury convicted Ungerbuehler in August of one count of unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance. The same jury acquitted him of more serious charges of leading organized crime and money laundering.

Jurors deliberated for two hours after 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 ­marijuana-growing enterprise that raked in profits he laundered through his personal bank accounts.

Ungerbuehler testified at trial that he grew the marijuana for a sick friend authorized to possess pot for medicinal purposes. He admitted he grew more than the law allows for such purposes, which paved the way for his felony conviction.

Deputy prosecutor Maureen Goodman this afternoon recommended the sentence Cuthbertson adopted, saying because Ungerbuehler had no prior criminal record he qualified for a light sentence.

Defense attorney Jay Berneburg concurred.

Berneburg told the judge his client had suffered mightily already as a result of the prosecution, including losing product endorsements. Police also seized recording equipment during a raid on Ungerbuehler’s house, further limiting his client’s ability to make money, Berneburg said.

“The publicity surrounding this case has hurt Steve greatly, both personally and professionally,” the defense attorney said. “He’s really hurting financially.”

Given a chance to speak before he was sentenced, Ungerbuehler thanked his family and friends for standing by him through what he called “a pretty tough two years.”

He reiterated he was only trying to help a sick friend by growing some marijuana but added, “I know now not to do the things I did.”

Cuthbertson also ordered Ungerbuehler to forfeit grow equipment and drug paraphernalia seized by police but said authorities should return surveillance equipment and some other items seized as evidence.

Ungerbuehler is fighting to retrieve other property authorities took as part of a civil forfeiture case.




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