Are Powell statements part of a strategy?

Published: Friday, Aug. 26 2011 11:46 p.m. MDT

Steven Powell, Josh Powell's father, seen on Aug. 18, 2011, has said publicly he believes Susan Powell may have run away with another Utah man who went missing around the same time.

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SALT LAKE CITY — The public comments of Josh Powell and his father, Steve Powell, have many — including legal experts — wondering if there's a strategy to the statements.

"I don't know what Josh and his father are trying to do right now in the media," said Greg Skordas, a Salt Lake City defense attorney not involved in the case. "It doesn't make sense."

Josh Powell is the only person of interest in the West Valley City investigation into his wife's disappearance. Following months of silence, Powell started talking after West Valley police began searching the hills near Ely, Nev., last week.

In media interviews over the past few days, both men alleged that Susan Cox Powell was promiscuous. "She's a many dimensional person. Susan is a very flirtatious person when she wants to be. It's a part of her personality," Josh Powell told NBC.

"She was very flirtatious and sexual with people. There was a lot of titillation going on," Steve Powell said. "Frankly sometimes I wished that we had done a little bit more than we did."

Friends of Susan Powell, as well as Jennifer Graves, Josh Powell's estranged sister, told reporters Susan had told them her father-in-law made unwanted advances toward her.

"It's an unusual case," said Daniel Medwed, a former public defender and University of Utah law professor.

Medwed said he was baffled by the comments of Josh Powell and his father, which he said lower credibility and raise suspicions about both, potentially turning scrutiny away from Josh Powell to his father.

"It could be a strategic move," Medwed said, adding that the comments could muddy the waters for prosecutors, if and when they were to bring charges.

"Honestly, I don't think this is part of an official legal strategy, really," said Medwed. "When it comes down to it, I think this is just Steve Powell talking."

"I don't know why there's any benefit to now somewhat hurting the name of Susan and calling her out as a flirtatious person and a sexual person," said Skordas. "I don't see that that benefits anyone at this point."

Attorneys typically urge their clients to either not make, or be very careful making statements to reporters because they might be used by prosecutors if they were to bring charges.

"All of those statements can be used in some capacity down the road," Skordas said. "All of those are recorded and all of those can be part of a case if the government chooses to use those, and they're putting a big case together."

Skordas said his advice to both Powells would be to stop talking. Medwed agreed.

"I would just advise him to maintain his silence, to maintain his privilege against self incrimination," he said.

Josh Powell hired Salt Lake defense attorney in late 2009, Scott Williams, to represent him. A call to Williams was not returned.

Powell earlier this week said he's willing to talk to the FBI — if they'd pay his attorney's fees.

Susan Powell, a 28-year-old mother of two, has been missing since Dec. 6, 2009. The night before she was reported missing, Josh Powell said he took their young children camping in single-digit temperatures in a remote part of Tooele County in the middle of the night. When he returned a day and a half later, he said his wife was gone.

E-mail: jdaley@desnews.com

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