2008-11-06 / Local & State

Powell Gets State Time For Indecent Assault

Judge orders minimum sentence of 5 years
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

After hearing testimony from the parents of an 8-year-old Winchester, Va., girl subjected to an act of aggravated indecent assault at a picnic last summer and reviewing a handful of letters written by the accused's friends, pastor and family physician, a minimum sentence of five years in a state prison was handed down to Needmore area resident Matthew Powell.

Taking into account the severity of the act as well as the rehabilitative needs of Powell and the impact on the victim and surrounding community, Judge Richard J. Walsh opted not to send Powell to a structured group home as requested by defense attorney David Keller but instead ordered him to a state correctional institution for a period of five to 15 years.

Judge Walsh, who presides in the Fulton/Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, pointed out that both Keller and District Attorney Travis Kendall exhibited extraordinary advocacy skills in suggesting sentencing options to the court. In addition, Walsh pointed out that even though Powell may have special needs as a result of suffering from Aspergers Syndrome and possible mental retardation, the Department of Corrections does have the capability to handle his needs.

While Powell is not categorized by the court system as a violent sexual predator, he will still be required to register his whereabouts with the state police for the remainder of his lifetime. He will also be listed as a Megan's Law offender and will undergo DNA testing and sexual offender treatment. Furthermore, the 23-year-old was ordered to refrain from contacting the victim and her immediate family as well as anyone under the age of 18.

"Some of what I heard today was absolutely compelling," related Walsh, who deemed the case as "extraordinary."

Among those asking for jail time rather than a structured group home setting with 24-hour roundthe clock supervision, was the girl's father. He pointed out at the slight knock of a door his daughter will try to find a place to hide, thereby diminishing the sense of security he established in creating a home for his family.

In addressing mitigating circumstances needing to be reviewed during the sentencing process, the victim's father said that in spite of Powell's "deficiencies" he still managed to register for a postsecondary education through ITT Technical Institute and even provides DJ services for his friends.

The man added the incident involving his daughter was not the first time Powell sexually assaulted a child, and evidence was presented to the court as documentation. "The children of Franklin and Fulton counties are not safe ... . Even though there will be people to speak on Matthew's behalf, would any of them allow him to babysit their young children?" he concluded.

In addition to the victim's biological mother reading aloud the chain of events that occurred at the Powell's Timber Ridge Road household on June 23, 2007, during a belated Father's Day picnic, the girl's stepmother tearfully shared with her family and the crowded courtroom she too was sexually assaulted at the young age of eight.

"The anger and fear stay with you your entire life," she said. "There were children only feet away when this happened (referring to the incident involving her stepdaughter). He's brazen, and he has no conscience."

While the defense presented a total of five letters to Judge Walsh written on Powell's behalf, attorney Keller stressed that the defense would in no way paint of picture of Matthew being the victim and down-play his actions. Keller stated at the age of 23, Powell has no juvenile or criminal history and was diagnosed in elementary school as having Aspergers Syndrome. In recent years, the family has been led to believe he also suffers from mental retardation.

"His deficiencies have to be taken into account," Keller said. "... His needs can't be ignored."

Powell wrapped up the sentencing proceedings by publicly apologizing "for the whole incident."

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