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Judge mulls whether to suppress evidence against Steven Powell

Published: Monday, April 23 2012 3:01 p.m. MDT

Steve Powell, right, appears in a Pierce County Superior Court hearing with his attorney, Mark Quigley, left, Monday, April 23, 2012, in Tacoma, Wash. Quigley said Monday that investigators frustrated by their unsuccessful quest to find Powell's missing daughter-in-law pursued an "illegal" warrant that eventually led to voyeurism charges against Powell. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Ted S. Warren, AP

TACOMA, Wash. — Calling it "general exploratory rummaging in a person's belongings," attorneys for Steven Powell on Monday argued that evidence against their client in his voyeurism and child pornography case was collected illegally and should be thrown out.

"This is a fishing expedition under the guise of searching for journals written over 12 years ago," argued defense attorney Mark Quigley.

Prosecutors, however, countered that police were looking into the disappearance and possible homicide of Susan Powell when Steven Powell, her father-in-law, went on national television himself to say the diaries that he and his son, Josh Powell, possessed were important pieces of information in the investigation.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald E. Culpepper took the arguments under advisement and said he would make a ruling at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The courtroom was full for Monday's hour-long hearing. Chuck and Judy Cox, the parents of Susan Powell, were present as was Alina Powell, Steven Powell's daughter. Extra sheriff's deputies were also positioned throughout the courtroom.

After the hearing, Alina Powell said she believed the defense made a better case than prosecutors.

"I felt that the defense's arguments were very strong legally and that the prosecution's arguments were rather weak. They didn't really support their claims," she said.

She insisted that her father is innocent of the charges against him — 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of possession of materials of minors engaged in explicit conduct. Police say they seized thousands of photographs of young children, mostly young girls, many in partial states of undress.

Specific to the charges, Powell is accused of taking 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 taken secretly without the subjects' knowledge or consent.

Alina Powell, however, believes the evidence seized from their house last year was "fabricated."

"I do believe that he should be released from jail. And I believe that based on the conduct of the police, there has been a lot of illegal hanky panky. Frankly that suggests that if they're willing to go that far to get a warrant, who knows how far they're willing to go to back that warrant up," she said. "They lied in order to get the search. ... Then when they found nothing they made stuff up in order to further their cause and take Josh's children and so forth."

During oral arguments before Culpepper, Quigley did not suggest that police fabricated evidence. However, he said at the time of the search, the investigation into Susan Powell's disappearance was going nowhere for West Valley police.

"This investigation was stale, the police were frustrated and quite honestly they needed a reason to enter the Powell household," he said. "If these journals were so relevant and so important to this investigation, why did the police … wait nine months to get a warrant issued?"

In August, West Valley police served a search warrant at Steven and Josh Powell's Puyallup home. They were looking for seven volumes of Susan Powell's diaries, which they claimed the Powells weren't willing to give up.

Quigley argued Monday that the search was not warranted because the diaries weren't linked to her disappearance. "Just because Susan wrote the journals doesn't mean they would contain evidence of criminal activity," he said, adding that those diaries were written before she and Josh were married.

"These journals have nothing to do with her relationship to Josh Powell. These journals have to do with her relationship with other men before Josh Powell," he said. "These journals wouldn't have any insinuating information against Josh Powell."

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