Special Reports

Steven Powell says search of his house was illegal

Josh Powell’s father claims in newly filed court documents that Pierce County authorities illegally searched his house last year.

Steven Powell, 62, wants evidence seized during that search, including photos he allegedly took of young girls and his daughter-in-law, Susan Cox Powell, thrown out of court.

The subjects were naked or semi-nude in many of the photos and likely did not know they were being photographed, prosecutors say in court papers.

If Powell succeeds, prosecutors likely would be forced to dismiss the 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of possession of child pornography with which he’s charged. He’s pleaded not guilty and is to go to trial later this month.

Prosecutors intend to fight his suppression motion and are confident the evidence will remain admissible, Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said Tuesday.

“This is a case where law enforcement was especially meticulous,” Lindquist said. “They did things by the book.”

Lindquist said sheriff’s deputies searching for evidence in Susan Powell case – she disappeared from her Utah home in 2009 – found the photos and went back and got a second warrant to seize them.

Defense attorney Mark Quigley, who is representing Steve Powell, filed his suppression motion Monday. Quigley says police were on an unconstitutional “fishing expedition” when they searched Powell’s South Hill-area home in August.

Sheriff’s detectives wrote in a sworn affidavit seeking a search warrant that they were seeking seven journals written by Susan Cox Powell, who went missing under mysterious circumstances and is considered a homicide victim.

Josh Powell was considered a person of interest in his wife’s disappearance though he was never arrested or charged. Powell killed himself and the couple’s two young sons in Pierce County last month.

Detectives contended the journals are evidence in the woman’s disappearance, Quigley wrote in his pleading. The original warrants are under seal and not available for public inspection.

The detectives also requested permission to seize “any and all digital copies that would be stored on Joshua Powell’s computer(s) or digital storage devices, Steven Powell’s computer(s) or digital storage devices, and any other computer(s) or digital storage devices that Joshua or Steven Powell would have access to in any common part of the residence,” according to Quigley’s pleading.

The defense attorney argues in his motion that the detectives did not explain specifically “why these journals would have any evidence of criminal misconduct.”

Some of the journals apparently were written before Josh and Susan Powell were married, Quigley wrote.

“In sum, the affidavit fails to explain why the journals would lead to any evidence of criminal activity and what information they contain that could lead to that conclusion,” the attorney said.

Even if the journals were proper evidence, investigators had no cause to expand their search to digital files if the hardbound copies were available, Quigley added.

It was during their search for digital copies that they discovered the 2,000 images on which the charges against Steve Powell are based.

“The warrant sought seizure of the journals as its primary reason for execution, but the implicit reason was to conduct an exploratory, random, ‘fishing expedition’-style search of the Powell home seeking any evidence against Josh Powell,” Quigley wrote. “Such a search is the exact circumstance the Fourth Amendment was designed to protect against.”

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644



Twitter: @TNTadam