Former Tacoma math teacher pleads not guilty in latest sex charge

Tacoma News TribuneApril 8, 2014 

Former Lincoln High School teacher Meredith Powell pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a fourth charge stemming from her alleged sexual misconduct with students.

The 24-year-old former Tacoma math teacher had pleaded not guilty Feb. 7 to two counts of third-degree child rape and one count of communication with a minor for immoral purposes. The charges were based on allegations that she engaged in sexual acts with three of her male students, ages 15 to 17, earlier this year.

On Tuesday, she was in court on a charge of sexual misconduct with a minor in the second degree. The new charge stemmed from accusations from a fourth boy who in court documents described how Powell unzipped his pants and touched his penis when he sought after-school help with math in her classroom last year. He was a 17-year-old Lincoln junior at the time.

Powell also received a warning Tuesday from Judge Bryan Chushcoff to stay away from Facebook communications with minors. Having no contact with minors who aren’t family members was a condition of her release in February.

Prosecutors made a new request Tuesday for higher bail, based on an allegation that, shortly after her release on bail, Powell logged on to a supportive “Free Powell” Facebook page created by a ninth-grader and posted a message saying “Thank you, so, so much.”

“I don’t regard Internet communication as trivial,” Chushcoff said.

He declined to raise bail Tuesday, but he warned Powell that if she violates the condition again, she will find herself back in jail facing higher bail.

Powell’s attorney, Wayne Fricke, said after the hearing that “she knows now not to do that.” He also said in court that he will be surprised if the latest allegation “holds water.”

“I’m very skeptical,” Fricke said outside the courtroom. “Anyone can make a statement now, and the burden is on her to show otherwise.”

Powell resigned her position at Lincoln after the initial charges were filed, and she has surrendered her state teaching certificate.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635 debbie.cafazzo@thenewstribune.com @DebbieCafazzo

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