TACOMA, Wash. – The father-in-law of missing Utah woman Susan Powell was sentenced Friday to 2 1/2 years in prison for recording images of two neighbor girls in their bathroom in Washington state.
The mother of Steven Powell's victims was trembling and tearful in court as she stood with her back to him and said she's still waiting for an apology.
"You've sat there smugly and acted as though it's perfectly normal to have committed your crimes," she said. "I'm so angry. I'm angry for the hurt you caused my children. You caused them embarrassment and heartache."
Powell, wearing a gray jail uniform, declined to speak.
Pierce County prosecutors had asked for Powell, 62, to be sentenced to 10 years. His attorneys sought zero to 12 months, saying it's not clear exactly when Powell took the pictures, and it could have been before the state made voyeurism a ranked felony in 2006.
Powell is the father-in-law of Susan Powell, who disappeared from her home in West Valley City, Utah, in 2009. His son Josh Powell was the prime suspect in Susan's disappearance. Josh Powell killed himself and his two young sons in a February fire at a home in Graham.
Steve Powell was arrested last September after investigators searching his home for evidence in Susan Powell's disappearance came across computer disks with what they described as thousands of images of women and girls who seemed unaware they were being photographed. Those filmed, prosecutors say, included the neighbor girls, who were identified in court only by their initials and who were about 8 and 10 when the images were recorded.
Powell was convicted in May of 14 voyeurism counts.
Deputy prosecutor Grant Blinn asked for an exceptional 10-year sentence, noting the number of offenses and that Powell not only secretly watched the girls, but he "memorialized" his offense by recording them so he could watch them over and over.
Powell's lawyers, Mark Quigley and Travis Currie, argued that 10 years was far beyond what any other convicted voyeur has received in Pierce County. One other defendant charged with similar offenses received a sentence of 261 days, but he took responsibility for his crimes.
Quigley urged Judge Ronald Culpepper to pay no mind to the intense media attention on the case.
"We can't ignore the fact that there's intense public interest in the outcome of this case," he said. "I would ask you not to punish Mr. Powell for the conduct of his son."
Culpepper also sentenced Steven Powell to three years of supervised release following his prison sentence.
Before sentencing Powell, Culpepper threw out two of the 14 convictions, saying they appeared to be redundant — that is, Powell had faced multiple counts based on the same recording sessions.
Powell's lawyers sought to have all but two of the counts dismissed — one count for each victim — on the grounds that the state couldn't prove the images weren't all recorded in one long recording session on a single day.
The judge declined, saying he didn't have enough evidence to overrule the jury's decision to convict him on those counts.
Among the images recovered from Steve Powell's home were many of Susan Powell that appeared to have been filmed without her knowledge, investigators said. There were also journals in which Steve Powell detailed his obsession with Susan Powell, they said.
Much of that evidence had been barred from the trial as unduly prejudicial against the defendant. Steve Powell was not charged with acts of voyeurism involving Susan Powell because authorities couldn't prove she didn't know about the filming.
Steven Powell's daughter, Alina Powell, said she believed the prosecution was affected by the notoriety of the case. She didn't blame her father for not speaking in court, because she said if he said he didn't do it nobody would believe him. If he apologized, she said, nobody would believe that either.
"There's nothing to say ... because it's too politicized," she said.
Attorney Anne Bremner served Steven Powell with a lawsuit on behalf of the victims just before the sentencing. It seeks damages for invasion of privacy, and Bremner said it would also provide a way to obtain police records in the case. She said that could shed light on the Susan Powell investigation.
Blinn, the deputy prosecutor, defended the decision to seek a 10-year sentence for Steven Powell. He said it was appropriate given the facts and the importance of protecting the public.
"I don't know of anyone that would want him living next door to their kids," Blinn said.