TACOMA, Wash. — Steven Powell says the $1.8 million he was ordered to pay to the young girls he took voyeuristic pictures of is too much.
But his objection may have been raised too late.
In handwritten documents filed from prison this week by Powell to the Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma, Powell claims the damages awarded to the plaintiffs against him "are excessive, both in terms of defendant's resources and of plaintiff's claims" and there is "no evidence or reasonable inference from the evidence to justify" paying $1.8 million.
Powell, 63, was convicted of 14 counts of voyeurism in May of 2012. A Tacoma jury found him guilty of taking photographs of two neighbor girls, then ages 8 and 10, with a telephoto lens while they were nude or partially nude in their bathroom.
Powell has yet to pay anything toward the judgment. The girls' attorney, Anne Bremner, said she doesn't buy his explanation that he didn't know about the judgment against him. She said she personally served Powell with the civil lawsuit at the Pierce County Superior Courthouse just before he was sentenced on his criminal charges.
When Powell never responded to the suit, the plaintiffs moved to a default order.
"He failed to respond and, legally, when you don't respond to process, you can be in default," she said.
Because of that, Bremner wasn't sure Thursday if a judge is required to hear Powell's motion.
Powell was back in court earlier this week for a debtors exam, meaning Powell had to answer questions under oath about his assets, including his house, homeowner insurance, and even his pension from his years of working for the Washington Department of Corrections.
On Wednesday, the girls' mother filed a writ of garnishment against Powell and his credit union. With interest, the writ claims Powell now owes the family $1.9 million. If a writ of garnishment is approved by a judge, the family can take whatever is currently in Powell's bank account.
While Bremner admitted that seeking $1.9 million was in part symbolic, there was also a real need by the victims for counseling.
"The families that have been impacted by the Powell family are seeking some justice, any justice, in what has been a horrific situation any way around. Part of a judgment like that can be symbolic, in any event. But the girls have real damages, need for counseling, they're in counseling, it needs to be ongoing," she said.
There is also an ongoing battle over a $3.5 million life insurance policy that Powell's son, Josh Powell, took out on his wife, Susan Cox Powell. After Josh Powell killed his two young sons and himself, he left that money for his brother Michael Powell. Michael Powell committed suicide in February. Susan Powell went missing from her West Valley home in December 2009 and investigators believe her husband killed her.
The legal fight over who is entitled to that money continues. Bremner said Steven Powell was attempting to get a portion of those proceeds.
Powell has been eligible for early release from prison since May, but has been unable to come up with a required "offender release plan" that the Washington Department of Corrections will approve. Powell thought he had a plan worked out that would have resulted in him being released Monday, but the landlord changed his mind about hosting Powell.
Powell will be released from prison in March after serving his entire sentence if he cannot come up with an acceptable offender release plan before then.
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