Wyoming Lawyer Disbarred for Sex With Divorce Client; Office Searched by DCI
A Wyoming attorney and former municipal court judge has been disbarred after admitting that he engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with a client and lied to cover up the affair.
Gregory L. Knudsen, of Torrington, will be disbarred effective July 15, according to an order from the Wyoming Supreme Court. For reasons still not entirely clear, his home and office were searched by special agents of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation earlier this year.
The Wyoming State Bar's Board of Professional Responsibility laid out the reasons for disbarment in a recommendation filed with the high court June 20.
The woman with whom Knudsen had a sexual relationship retained a different lawyer and filed a divorce complaint on March 5, 2018. Shortly thereafter, she decided that she wanted a different attorney and first met with Knudsen on April 9, 2018.
Knudsen, who has been practicing law in Wyoming since 1989, reportedly exchanged more than 11,000 text messages and GIF images with his client over six months beginning in May 2018.
Those text message exchanges quickly became sexually suggestive, and the client expressed concern that her husband might find out about Knudsen's communications with her.
"You need to think of the consequences for me," she texted. Knudsen, however, continued to express his desire for a sexual relationship, which began on or about May 20, 2018.
"[Knudsen] was aware that it was unethical to engage in a sexual relationship with a client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed between them when the client-lawyer relationship commenced," board Vice Chair Christopher H. Hawks stated in the recommendation.
"Nonetheless, [Knudsen] persisted in urging [the client] to have sex with him, often in texts. [Knudsen] was aware that [the client]'s nine-year-old child had frequent access to his mother's phone. Therefore, [Knudsen] encouraged [the client] to erase their texts," the recommendation continues.
Early on, Knudsen told the client that he and the judge assigned to the case were close friends and would have "occasional, ex parte communications about the divorce case."
On May 20, the client texted Knudsen, "I did say hello to [the judge] today... trying to brown nose a bit... ha ha... I'm not sure if he knows me or not."
"He knows you," Knudsen responded. "I've made sure of that. He and I were talking about you briefly when we were standing outside the post office."
"We really were talking about your hearing. Just don't tell that to anyone," Knudsen continued. "We aren't supposed to talk about cases outside the courtroom. But [the judge] and I are very good friends."
Knudsen later told the Bar that those statements were untrue.
The client's husband submitted a complaint to the Wyoming State Bar on March 21, 2019, alleging that Knudsen had entered into a romantic relationship with Knudsen's client while the husband and wife were still married.
On April 23, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation executed a search warrant at Knudsen's office and home. Special agents obtained copies of Knudsen's electronic communications with the client.
"Both the warrants and the supporting affidavits remain under seal, and the parties to the stipulation are uncertain as to the basis for the issuance of the warrants," Hawks wrote in the disbarment recommendation dated June 18.