Will Steven Powell diaries obsessing over Susan be admitted in trial?

Judge dismisses child porn charge; he still faces 14 voyeurism charges

Published: Monday, May 7 2012 2:00 p.m. MDT

Steven Powell appears in court for jury selection in front of Judge Ronald E. Culpepper, in Pierce County Superior Court, in Tacoma, Washington, Monday, May 7, 2012. Powell is the father-in-law of missing West Valley City woman Susan Powell. Judge Ronald E. Culpepper is presiding over the trial on voyeurism and pornography charges.

Rick Egan, Rick Egan

Editor's note: Because of the graphic nature of the court documents, some of the subject matter may not be suitable for all readers.

Live coverage: Steven Powell trial in Tacoma

Related: Sins of the father: Steven Powell's behavior leaves a legacy of harm

TACOMA, Wash. — Steven Powell had a small victory on the first day of his trial Monday.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper dismissed a charge of possession of child pornography against Powell. He still, however, faces 14 counts of voyeurism.

The alleged victims in the case are two little girls, former neighbors of Steven Powell, who were recorded with digital cameras through an open bathroom window while they were taking baths.

In making his decision, Culpepper noted that prosecutors could not show that Powell directed the girls to pose provocatively or in an explicit nature and said the evidence did not fit the charge. The girls, ages 10 and 8, were innocently getting into a bathtub and were allegedly photographed without their knowledge, Culpepper noted.

Opening statements in the trial are likely to begin on Wednesday, assuming a jury is selected by then.

Culpepper is expected to decide Tuesday whether prosecutors can use portions of Powell's diaries as evidence during the trial. They want to introduce eight passages from Steven Powell's diaries — which were seized last year from his Puyallup, Wash., home — as evidence. The dates of the journals range from 2003 to 2010.

"The vast majority of the writing is sexually graphic and obsessing over Susan Powell," deputy Pierce County attorney Bryce Nelson said, referring to Powell's Utah daughter-in-law who has been missing since 2009.

Prosecutors read samples of the diaries Monday, saying Steven Powell allegedly wrote: "Susan likes to be admired and I'm a voyeur," "I'm a voyeur and Susan is an exhibitionist," and "I've been going nuts and nearly out of control sexually my entire life."

Prosecutors also noted that in 2004, Powell wrote in his diary that he "likes taking video shots of pretty girls in shorts and skirts, beautiful women of every age."

In the diaries, Powell talked about stalking his daughter-in-law, taking secret videos of her — including some from underneath a bathroom door — and secretly watching Susan from a hallway.

Prosecutors argued that in order for the jury to fully understand how deep Powell was into voyeurism and how obsessed he was with pornography, they want to present portions of those diaries to jurors and introduce other pictures found on discs seized from Powell's home.

Late Monday afternoon, the judge noted that from an initial glance of the diaries, they seem to prove Steven Powell had an obsession with Susan Powell rather than proving any pattern of voyeurism. He said he'd make a final decision about prosecutors using the journals as evidence on Tuesday.

Powell's defense team argued that the diaries are not only irrelevant to his current charges, but the mere mention of Susan Powell would prejudice a jury because of her high-profile disappearance.

Defense attorney Travis Currie wants the court to remember that his client's trial is not about Susan Powell, or about her husband Josh Powell, who is suspected of killing her before he killed himself and their two young sons in February.

Prosecutors noted that police seized thousands of digital images from Powell's home, many of Susan Powell, some adult porn, and many of clothed women who don't appear to know that their photos were being taken. They want some of those images admitted in court to show a pattern beyond the photos of the two alleged victims in Powell's current case.

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