West Valley City denies attorney's request to release police records in Susan Powell case

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 28 2012 9:24 p.m. MDT

Council members Steve Vincent, left, and Steve Buhler listen to Anne Bremner Attorney for Chuck and Judy Cox as she argues before the West Valley City Council Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012 requesting records of the West Valley City Police case of missing Susan Powell.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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WEST VALLEY CITY — Citing concern for an ongoing criminal investigation, city officials Tuesday denied an appeal by the family of Susan Cox Powell to release documents related to the police investigation into her disappearance.

But Seattle attorney Anne Bremner has promised to file a civil lawsuit against the city if the records are not released.

West Valley City Councilman Corey Rushton announced the city's decision after a special closed session of the council Tuesday.

"After viewing (the documents), it was very apparent to us that releasing them at this time could reasonably be expected to hamper an ongoing investigation," Rushton said.

The City Council reached its decision unanimously, he said.

Bremner said she was dissapointed but not surprised by the council's decision. She confirmed that the Cox family does intend to file a lawsuit against the city and said she hopes to have it filed in the next two weeks.

"We don't have another option," she said.

Rushton declined to comment on the threat of a lawsuit against the city or the state of West Valley City's investigation into Powell's disappearance, instead saying the City Council was only concerned with Bremner's public records request.

"Our hopes and our prayers are that we'll be able get a resolution of this, and some answers and some form of justice for the families," Rushton said. "We certainly, as a City Council, as a West Valley government, can appreciate anybody petitioning their government for a redress of grievances."

One week ago, Bremner traveled to Utah to make a third and final plea to City Council members for unredacted police records to be handed over so Chuck and Judy Cox, the parents of Susan Powell, could review them.

Powell has been missing since December 2009 and is presumed dead. Her husband, Josh Powell, was being investigated by police in connection with his wife's disappearance when, in February, he killed himself and murdered their young sons, Charlie and Braden.

After deliberating behind closed doors last week for less than an hour, the City Council decided it needed to review more case documents before making a final decision.

Following their Tuesday public meeting, council members again entered a closed session to make a final decision on whether to release the documents.

About three weeks ago, 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton released redacted versions of search warrants and other police reports. The majority of the information that was not redacted were facts that had been previously made public when officials in Pierce County, Wash., released similar documents.

The Coxes want the documents to find out what police knew about Josh Powell and when, and whether they had enough evidence to arrest him prior to the murders of their grandchildren.

Bremner said she believes the records should be released because Josh Powell is dead. She said police cannot hide under the guise of "an ongoing investigation." West Valley police, however, say the case is still very much active and ongoing.

Bremner has already put the Washington Department of Social and Health Services on notice that she and another attorney intend to file a $20 million civil lawsuit against the agency for alleged negligence in its supervision of Charlie and Braden.

Bremner, who also represents the two young girls who were victimized by Josh Powell's father, Steven Powell, in a voyeurism case, has also filed a civil lawsuit against Steven Powell. He is currently serving a 30-month prison sentence after being convicted in May of 14 counts of voyeurism.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com, benwood@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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