Prosser man convicted of sex crimes involving minors

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldMay 8, 2014 

Jonathan Edward Kuhlman.jpg

Jonathan Edward Kuhlman

A Prosser man was convicted Thursday of sex crimes involving two Kiona-Benton City High School girls.

Jonathan E. Kuhlman, 42, befriended the students through social media and gave the girls marijuana when they separately met up.

The Benton County Superior Court jury took a little more than two hours to return guilty verdicts for second-degree rape, communication with a minor for immoral purposes and two counts of distribution of marijuana to a person younger than 18.

All of the charges are felonies, and the drug deliveries include sexual motivation.

The rape is a violent sex offense that carries an indeterminate sentence, which means Kuhlman could spend the rest of his life in prison.

The trial before Judge Sal Mendoza Jr. started Monday and went to the jury Thursday afternoon.

Kuhlman was arrested July 24 after Benton County sheriff's deputies received a report that he had approached a teen girl who was walking home from school in Benton City.

Kuhlman started talking with her, then offered her a ride home. When he dropped the teen off at home he programmed his phone number on her phone and told her to give him a call.

The next day, Kuhlman and the teen communicated via posts on Facebook and text messages while the girl was at school, according to court records.

The conversation was sexual in nature, and the girl was using a friend's cellphone and a school computer. She agreed Kuhlman could pick her up from school, and he drove them to a cemetery where he tried to sexually assault her.

A concerned friend of the teen sent a text to Kuhlman warning him to return her friend to school or she would call the police, records said. Kuhlman dropped off the girl a short time later.

While investigating that incident, a younger teen girl came forward and said she had a similar encounter with Kuhlman earlier in the year.

That Ki-Be student told authorities that Kuhlman began communicating with her through Facebook because they had mutual friends, and she agreed to meet him at a bus stop early in the morning to hang out.

Kuhlman drove the girl to an orchard, gave her marijuana and raped her, court records said. She screamed, pushed him away and ran.

Kuhlman warned the teen not to tell anyone, court records said.

"It was extremely emotional testimony for both girls and it was difficult to get through, but they made it and they can finally have closure," said Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra. "And it means one more sexual predator is off the streets."

The teen girl who previously told investigators that Kuhlman tried to have sex with her in the cemetery, admitted in tearful testimony that more actually happened, Petra said. The prosecutor decided not to change the charges in the middle of trial.

Kuhlman did not take the stand.

His attorney, Ryan Swinburnson, reportedly argued that the girls lied and that the prosecution didn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kuhlman gave them pot.

Kuhlman is being held in the Benton County jail as a convicted sex offender.

Sentencing tentatively is set for July 10.

Kuhlman, who already had a criminal history, is looking at a minimum sentence of 17 1/2 years to 23 years and four months in prison, Petra said.

His ultimate release will be up to the state's Indeterminate Sentence Review Board, based on his participation in sex offender therapy and counseling and his behavior while behind bars.

He could be locked up for life if the board believes he's a further risk to the community.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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