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Court: State violated Fifth Amendment rights of sex offender Steven Powell

Steven Powell, father-in-law of missing mom Susan Cox Powell, has taken on the state of Washington – and won.

After he was convicted of 12 counts of voyeurism back in 2012, Powell was sentenced to 30 months in jail and another 30 months of community custody. As part of his release agreement, Powell was ordered to undergo sex offender treatment.

Powell refused to complete the psycho-sexual evaluation which would require him to disclose his sexual history. He argued that the evaluation would violate his Fifth Amendment rights. He told the court that his “history would reveal other uncharged crimes.”

The state considers Powell’s counselor a “mandatory reporter” who would be obligated to tell law enforcement about certain crimes disclosed by Powell during the course of treatment.

According to the ruling, Powell offered to talk with the condition that he be granted immunity. But, attorneys for the state wouldn’t have it, saying “somebody could… admit to any level of horrible criminal activity, so we’re not in a position to extend immunity.”

At trial, it was found that Powell violated terms of release and was sentenced to another 40 days in jail, which he served in late 2014.

In his appeal, the court sided with Powell, ruling that once he invoked the Fifth Amendment, punishing him for staying silent was a violation of his constitutional rights.

Attorney Anne Bremner has been a friend and spokesperson for the Cox family, who believe Steven Powell’s son, Josh, is responsible for the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell in 2009. She said most offenders who undergo that kind of treatment are trying to get help for serious disorders.

“Psycho-sexual evaluation consists of a number of parts,” said Bremner. “You’ve got a polygraph, and also a plethysmograph that measures how you physically react, so to speak, to certain images, ages, sexes, etc.”

So, Bremner said there must have been a reason Powell refused treatment.

“We are seeing Steven Powell basically saying there’s other crimes out there. It can’t just be kind of speculative, like ‘maybe that could get me in trouble,’ or ‘maybe somewhere out there – there could interest in my statement.’ It has to be something real, something you can appreciate. Now, that would mean for Powell: underage kids, it could mean forcible rape, it could mean kidnapping.”

Since Powell had already served the 40 days ordered by the State by the time of the appeal, the Appeals Court’s opinion is moot. Powell will continue serving out a sentence at the Monroe Correctional Facility for separate charges ofpossession of child pornography related to the same incident for which he was convicted in 2012. He’s scheduled to be released in July 2017.

Powell was the father of Josh Powell, who authorities believe killed his wife, Susan Cox Powell, in Utah. Josh later moved back home to Puyallup, where he killed his two young sons and himself in an explosive house fire in 2012.

Steven Powell was also investigated as part of the disappearance, and
his home searched in 2011.

Bremner said Josh Powell was being investigated as part of the child pornography charges against his father and was ordered to undergo the same psycho-sexual evaluation shortly before his death.

Kim Shepard contributed to this report.

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