Minnesota State Trooper Albert Kuehne sat in his cruiser last March and scrolled through a phone belonging to a 25-year-old woman he’d just detained on suspicion of drunken driving. As paramedics evaluated the woman, who had crashed her car, he clicked through her photos.
Hours later, the woman’s boyfriend noticed something alarming on her MacBook, which was synced to her phone: Outgoing texts messages to an unknown phone number with nude and partially clothed pictures of the woman attached.
When they called that unfamiliar number, Kuehne answered.
This week, thanks to that discovery, Kuehne, 37, admitted that he sent himself three explicit photos of the woman, and then deleted the outgoing messages on the woman’s phone to cover his tracks.
Kuehne pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a misdemeanour charge of nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images, according to court records. A member of the Army Reserve, Kuehne will be sentenced later this month.
A lawyer for Kuehne did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment.
Kuehne, who lives in Dayton, Minn., a suburb almost 30 miles northwest of downtown Minneapolis, was placed on administrative leave last May and was ultimately fired last October.
“We hold troopers to a high standard and the conduct outlined in this complaint is reprehensible and inconsistent with the core values of the Minnesota State Patrol,” a Minnesota State Patrol spokesman told KSTP.
Three years before the incident, Kuehne, along with another trooper and a trainee, were suspended after chasing a man who was driving over the speed limit. The chase ended with the suspect running his car into a playground and hitting three children ages two, three and four. Two of the children were severely injured; all three survived. Local authorities questioned the merit of the chase, which occurred in a residential area.
But Kuehne later returned to duty. On March 25, 2020, he responded to a call about a one-vehicle car crash off Interstate 94 in Minneapolis. When he arrived at the scene after 4 p.m., Kuehne detained the driver after he suspecting she had been driving under the influence, according to court records.
Video from a camera inside the cruiser showed the woman in Kuehne’s back seat, using her cellphone to make a phone call. Once she hung up, Kuehne told her to “give me the phone now,” the complaint said.
Minutes later, as paramedics treated the woman, Kuehne went through the woman’s phone, found the images and texted them to himself.
“The images in question show Victim either nude or partially nude. Two of the photos show Victim’s exposed breasts,” the complaint said.
Police later confirmed that Kuehne sent the images thanks to the camera in the patrol car, which showed the trooper alone in his vehicle with the phone at 4:44 p.m. — the same timestamp as the text messages.
The woman was home later that evening when her boyfriend noticed the text messages on her computer. Although Kuehne deleted the messages from the woman’s phone, the text still appeared on her computer, which was synced to her iCloud account.
“Victim’s boyfriend contacted the unknown phone number and the person on the other end of the call eventually identified themselves as the defendant,” the complaint said.
The woman then contacted a lawyer who reported the incident to police. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension opened an investigation.
During interviews with investigators, the woman “denied giving the defendant permission to access her phone. She denied giving the defendant permission to view photos of herself or to send himself the photos,” court documents said.
Law enforcement arrested and charged Kuehne in June 2020 with two felony counts of harassment with bias, because the victim was a woman.
Kuehne’s charges were bumped down to a misdemeanour on Tuesday after he took a plea deal.