Grand Rapids lawyer pleads guilty to sexually assaulting female clients

A lawyer from northern Minnesota who admitted to sexually abusing four female clients will spend time in jail.

Jesse Robert Powell, 33, of Bigfork, entered a guilty plea to four felony charges of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct on Friday in state district court.

In return for the pleas, Powell, a former prosecutor who more recently managed a private criminal defense and family law company in Grand Rapids, consented to a 78-month jail sentence.

One of the victims said to the Duluth News Tribune this week, “Powell has made me terrified of people, places, and circumstances that I shouldn’t be scared of.” “This won’t just go. When are you safe if not from your attorney or when they are at their office?

The lady who hired Powell for a divorce case stated, “When you hire a lawyer, you expect to have someone who is going to assist you, to fight for you, that you can trust.” “They swear under oath. Powell violated that vow. Powell took advantage of me because he believed I was weak. Powell doesn’t practice law. He is an opportunist.

The accusations, which were made public in December and repeatedly changed as more victims came forward, detailed a long history of sexual harassment and abuse against women that he represented via Powell Law PLLC.

Many of the women were in precarious situations, such as going through divorces or child custody battles, and the allegations claimed that he repeatedly made advances toward the clients. The majority of the instances were said to have happened at his office, although Powell’s residence and the place of employment of at least one victim were also mentioned in reports.

Several of the women said that Powell had sexually assaulted them, some of which occurred in his legal office’s restroom. He had been charged with multiple more severe charges of third-degree criminal sexual behavior as well as racketeering prior to making the plea bargain.

The only requirement was that he acknowledge using force to intentionally touch the genitalia of the four ladies.

Powell “is not being held responsible for all of his attacks, or even the highest degree of his assaults,” according to the victim who spoke with the News Tribune. She said that his legal license has not been suspended and that he has remained free.

Powell “stole my health, my feeling of safety, my trust in others, and my sense of self-worth,” the lady said. She said that even routine tasks like using a public bathroom “instantly put me back to Powell’s office,” and that she had nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sadness, anxiety, and panic attacks.

She said that in addition to paying for doctor’s visits, counseling, and other expenditures, she also had to pay a new divorce lawyer $20,000 in legal fees.

When I consider how Powell searched for his victims while pretending to assist us, and how he continued getting away with it, I become outraged, she said. “I sought assistance from Advocates for Family Peace, only to be handed the name and contact information of a monster. Powell promised them a discounted charge for any referrals they made to him. those who were already in precarious circumstances. He believed that we would be simple prey.

According to the lady, there were indicators of Powell’s misbehavior that ought to have been seen sooner. He departed the Itasca County Attorney’s Office in 2020 as a result of verified allegations of improper remarks made against female coworkers. A court had also issued a harassment restraining order to one of the victims in March 2021, which was before law enforcement started their criminal investigation.

The matter was looked into by the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office and is now being prosecuted by Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson to prevent any conflicts of interest. Judge Annie Claesson-Huseby of Bemidji was given the case when all three of the judges chambered in Grand Rapids declared their disqualifications.

A earlier inquiry into Powell was verified by the Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, but no disciplinary action has yet been taken against Powell by the state Supreme Court, and an official did not immediately reply to a request for an update on the situation.

According to the records, Powell allowed his license to expire by failing to pay payments.

Powell would need to spend a little over four years in jail before being eligible for supervised release under Minnesota law. The sentencing date is set on December 6.

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