Will Steven Powell walk away free or get up to 10 years in prison?
New report says he had hoped to marry his daughter-in-law
TACOMA, Wash. — Whether Steven Powell goes home Friday or whether a state prison becomes his home for the next 10 years will all be up to a judge.
Prosecutors are asking Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper to order Powell to serve 10 years behind bars — that's more than double the time that corrections guidelines suggest should be served.
But defense attorneys are asking for the opposite. They want Culpepper to issue only a one-year sentence — or to give Powell credit for the time he has already served. He has been in custody since Sept. 22. If sentenced to time served and given credit for good behavior, Powell may not have to remain in jail at all.
"Best-case scenario for us, he walks tomorrow with 12 months probation," defense attorney Travis Currie said Thursday.
But prosecutor Grant Blinn believes the case warrants a much stiffer sentence.
"What's significant to me is not just the number of counts he was convicted of, but also the fact that he's never taken any responsibility," Blinn said Thursday.
A jury convicted Powell — the father-in-law of missing West Valley City mother Susan Cox Powell — of 14 counts of voyeurism on May 16. As part of the investigation into the woman's disappearance, police searched Steven Powell's Puyallup, Wash., home and seized thousands of photographs of women and girls.
He was accused of taking thousands of pictures of two girls who were his neighbors starting in 2006. The girls were 8 and 10 years old at the time. They are now 13 and 15.
He videotaped and photographed them from his house — just 40 to 50 feet away — by looking into their bathroom through an open door.
Although evidence involving Susan Powell was not allowed during the trial, the woman is mentioned multiple times in a pre-sentence report prepared for the judge. Powell was never shy about his attraction to his daughter-in-law, but the report says Powell hoped to marry her.
"Mr. Powell wrote in practically every journal entry something about Susan (Cox) Powell," the report states, referring to journals written between May 2003 and August 2011. "He noted how much he loved her and wanted to be with her and he penned on many different entries that he wished she and her husband Joshua would split up so that Mr. Powell could marry Susan."
Powell apparently wrote so often about his fantasies involving Susan Powell that the report's author "lost count." When Powell told his daughter-in-law "he was in love with her in a romantic sense," she did not have contact with him for three years, which he said was "depressing."
Since he was charged, however, Powell has been very tight-lipped. His silence has continued and he would not talk to investigators preparing the report.
"From communication through his attorneys, Mr. Powell declined to speak to the Department of Corrections relative to the (pre-sentence investigation)," the report states.
Although Powell has the option of addressing the judge before he is sentenced, Currie said he has advised his client not to say anything because of a number of planned appeals, including a challenge of the search warrant that allowed officers into Powell's home. Ultimately, Currie said, it will be Powell's decision whether to say anything.
Without Steven Powell's input, the corrections official who prepared the pre-sentence report talked to Powell's oldest daughter, Jennifer Graves. Graves answered questions about her father's employment history, social ties, education, attitude and family.
According to the report, Graves hopes her estranged father "is sent to jail for a long time, for as long as possible."
Each voyeurism count carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison. Based on the average penalty range for this type of crime and the offender score given to Powell, the recommended sentencing guideline is 43 to 57 months in prison.
But officer Joe Sofia, who prepared the report, instead sided with prosecutors and also recommended a harsher 10-year sentence.
Sofia cited "aggravating circumstances" of Powell targeting the same two victims repeatedly and committing the same crime multiple times. He also cited his "high offender score" and recommended that he also undergo a psychosexual evaluation, pay any necessary restitution and $1,200 in fees, register as a sex offender and serve 36 months of probation after serving his prison sentence.
Powell's victims will be given an opportunity to speak to the judge at the sentencing hearing, but Blinn said Thursday it was unclear if they would.
Graves said she wants her father to pay both for the voyeurism and whatever role he had in Susan Powell's disappearance. She also hopes having her father in custody will give police time to investigate the missing woman's case further.
"I guess what goes around comes around," Graves said. "You want to dish it out, you're going to get it in the end."
Attorney Anne Bremner — who represents the two victims and also represents Susan Powell's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox — said she she plans to serve a lawsuit on Steven Powell Friday as part of her efforts to obtain additional information.
"There's nothing like this case," Bremner said. "I mean, it's just the most horrific, tragic, upsetting case I think that any of us have ever seen."
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, Steven Powell's son, said he took their two 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.
Josh Powell was named a person of interest in the case, but was never arrested. He later moved into his father's Puyallup home.
Josh Powell murdered his two sons Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, and killed himself Feb. 5 after setting fire to his Graham, Wash., home.
The story of Susan Cox Powell has riveted the public and Bremner said she is aware of a number of books in the works, including one by Graves. Graves said her story is being written through her eyes as Josh Powell's sister and Susan Powell's friend.
"I would hope that people come away with the power that they have to make choices and take accountability for what they do," she said. "And also that there's always hope in their situation, no matter where they are."
Writers Gregg Olsen, Ann Rule, Isabelle Zehnder and Joe McGinniss are all considering books on the topic. Bremner said she met with Rule the day Josh Powell killed himself and his children.
Contributing: Andrew Adams
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