Attorneys argue search of Steven Powell home was illegal

Published: Tuesday, March 6 2012 11:37 a.m. MST

In this Aug. 19, 2011, photo, Steven Powell, the father-in-law of missing Utah woman Susan Powell, talks in Puyallup, Wash., about the search for Susan Powell. Steven Powell is charged with voyeurism and possession of child pornography and arrested Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011. He told police this week he doesn't want to talk to them about his daughter-in-law's disappearance or the death of his son and grandsons.

Associated Press

TACOMA, Wash. — Attorneys for Steven Powell are asking a judge to throw out the images seized from his home that are the basis for voyeurism charges against him, claiming the evidence was collected illegally.

In newly filed court documents, Steven Powell's defense attorneys claim a search warrant conducted by West Valley police on Josh and Steven Powell's Puyallup, Wash., home in August 2011 went "overboard" and was nothing more than an "exploratory, random, 'fishing expedition' style search" to look for evidence against Josh Powell in the case of his missing wife, Susan Cox Powell.

"The search here was without probable cause, the warrant was illegal and all the evidence must be suppressed," attorneys argued in court documents.

The father of Josh Powell has been in the Pierce County, Wash., Jail since September when he was charged in Pierce County Superior Court with with 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of possession of materials of minors engaged in explicit conduct.

Prosecutors say Powell, 61, took pictures of two neighbor girls, then ages 8 and 10, through an open window into their bathroom without their knowledge in 2006 and 2007. The pictures were discovered during West Valley police's search of the Powells' Puyallup home.

According to a motion filed to have the images suppressed, Steven Powell's attorneys contend that the images seized violated their client's Fourth Amendment rights. The affidavit that was used as the basis for the search warrant "failed to establish probable cause," according to court documents.

At the time the disc with the images in question was seized, there was another legal battle brewing between the Powells and the parents of Susan Cox Powell over the release of Susan's childhood diaries.

According to the motion, the search warrant allowed for the seizure of seven journals that belonged to Susan Powell, any type of digital or electronic device that could store copies of her journals, "any other fruits or instrumentalities determined to be evidence of kidnapping, homicide and obstruction of justice," and forensic evidence such as blood, hair, fingerprints and fibers.

The affidavit states that a search warrant for the journals was necessary. "Due to the fact these journals are evidence and could provide further intelligence and or investigative leads, these journals must be recovered. With the lack of cooperation and criminally obstructive behavior from Steven and Joshua Powell refusing to provide the journals to law enforcement in November 2010, a search warrant must be executed to recover this evidence."

But Powell's attorneys argue in court documents that the affidavit "provides no factual support for the conclusionary statement that the journals are evidence" and nowhere is it "articulated why these journals would have any evidence of criminal conduct."

The nexus connecting the journals with possible criminal activity didn't exist, defense attorneys argued.

"(Prosecutors failed) to explain why the journals would lead to any evidence of criminal activity and what information they contain that could lead to that conclusion," Steven Powell's attorneys wrote.

Furthermore, the defense argued that it is untrue that Steven Powell failed to cooperate with law enforcers, and his actions did not constitute "criminally destructive behavior."

Powell is currently scheduled to go on trial on his voyeurism and child pornography charges on March 20.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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