Steve Powell sentenced to 30 months in voyeurism case
Tacoma, Wash.• Steve Powell won't be going home anytime soon, but he won't be sitting in prison as long as his victims and the family of his missing daughter-in-law had hoped.
A judge here on Friday sentenced Powell to serve 30 months behind bars followed by 36 months of probation on voyeurism charges. He also will have to undergo sex offender treatment.
Powell, 62, will receive credit for about nine months he has already spent in jail. His prison sentence should end in March 2014 or sooner if the Washington Department of Corrections, for whom Steve Powell worked as a civilian employee at the time of his arrest, rewards him for good behavior.
In handing down the sentence, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper called the 10-year term proposed by prosecutors "excessive."
The father of missing West Valley City woman Susan Powell said Culpepper did a disservice to the victims two neighbor girls who were ages 8 and 9 when Steve Powell photographed them through their windows as they bathed and used the toilet in their Puyallup, Wash., home in 2006 and 2007.
"In our justice system, it just seems like the rights of the accused are higher than the rights of the victims," said Cox, who maintains Powell's son, Josh, is responsible for his daughter's disappearance and that Steve Powell may also know something about the case.
Powell's attorneys had asked for a year in jail. With time served and good behavior rewards from the Pierce County jail, that sentence would have freed Steve Powell after the hearing.
Steve Powell himself offered no apologies Friday. When the judge asked whether he wanted to address the court, "No, sir," was the reply.
Powell was convicted after a trial here in May of 14 counts of voyeurism, but Friday's hearing began with arguments to have two of those counts dismissed. Washington's voyeurism law says each count should reflect a different photo session. Prosecutors admitted two photographs were from the same session and dismissed one count.
Powell's defense attorneys then persuaded Culpepper two other photos also were from the same session by comparing the identical positions of furniture, toys and a water glass seen in the photos. A defense attorney asked for at least four other counts to be dismissed for similar reasons, but Culpepper declined that request.
Even after the dismissals, prosecutor Grant Blinn asked for the 10-year sentence largely due to the youth of the victims.
"He not only committed the crime of voyeurism in this case but he memorialized it with his camera," Blinn said, pointing out Powell printed still photos of the girls and copied photos onto compact disk.
The mother of the neighbor girls spoke in the courtroom directly to Powell and told him her children had lost their sense of security. She condemned Powell for trying to claim he didn't take the images and for sitting through the trial and hearing "smugly."
"Shame on you," she said. "Even though my girls didn't know you were watching them, I know that someone was watching you. You better pray that he forgives you because I can't."
One of Steve Powell's attorneys, Mark Quigley, argued other defendants convicted of voyeurism in Pierce County received only a fraction of the incarceration prosecutors sought Friday. Quigley also warned against punishing Steve Powell for what his son did.
Josh Powell was the only person of interest in the December 2009 disappearance of his wife from their West Valley City, Utah, home. Then on Feb. 5 of this year, Josh Powell killed the sons he had with Susan, 6-year-old Charlie and 4-year-old Braden, and himself in a fire in Graham, Wash.
"All these people," Quigley said with his right hand pointing to the crowded gallery, "are here, other than the victim's family, for one reason and that is the notoriety in this case."
After a recess, Culpepper returned to the courtroom and addressed the role of Josh and Susan Powell in the case. Culpepper said there was reason to believe Josh was responsible for his wife's disappearance but said people must be punished for their own actions.
"People want someone to punish," Culpepper said. "Mr. Steven Powell so far as I know there's no information he was involved in that."
Besides the prison and probation, Culpepper ordered Steve Powell to not possess camera equipment during his probation. Culpepper scheduled a restitution hearing for Aug. 16 where the victims can produce bills for counseling and other costs associated with the crimes. Steve Powell may be ordered to pay those bills.
After the hearing, Steve Powell's daughter, Alina Powell, said she wasn't pleased with the 30 months but credited Culpepper for ignoring the request for 10 years. She said she didn't know whether her father committed the crimes, though during the trial she said the evidence was fabricated.
When asked why her father didn't speak, Alina Powell said there was nothing for him to say.
"This is too politicized," she said.
There will be more legal wrangling for Steve Powell. Before the hearing began, an attorney representing the victims, Anne Bremner, walked past the judge's bench and into the prisoner holding area to serve Steve Powell with a lawsuit brought by the victims in the case.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for invasion of privacy and emotional injury. Bremner also is representing the Cox family as they pursue documents from West Valley City and Pierce County related to the search for Susan Powell.
Quigley said his client will appeal his conviction on the grounds the search of Powell's home, which turned up digital evidence used to prosecute him, was illegal. Culpepper rejected that argument before trial.
Twitter: @natecarlisle The parents of Susan Powell said Friday the West Valley City detectives looking for their daughter have stopped returning their messages.
West Valley City detectives have not spoken to the Cox family in more than a month despite attempts at contact, said Chuck Cox, Susan's father. Cox had previously kept in regular contact with detectives and was complimentary of West Valley City police until shortly after Feb. 5, when his son-in-law, Josh Powell, murdered his sons then killed himself in a house fire in Graham, Wash.
After that, the Cox family raised questions about the West Valley City police investigation and filed a request under Utah law for records from the investigation. West Valley City has denied that request but the Cox family plans an administrative appeal and has said they will file a lawsuit if necessary.
A spokesman for the West Valley City Police Department did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
While he would like to speak with West Valley City detectives, Cox on Friday insisted he wasn't upset. He said in the past West Valley City detectives would share information and ask him to keep it secret then tell it to reporters the next day.
"They never really told me anything anyway," Cox said.