A Bismarck man found guilty in June of raping an unconscious woman was sentenced Tuesday to 30 years in prison in a case that involved graphic cellphone video that prosecutors played in open court.
Richard Powley, 51, was convicted of one count of gross sexual imposition in which the victim was unaware, and two counts of forcible gross sexual imposition. He was charged in 2017 after police say they found video on his cellphone that showed him sexually assaulting a woman. The jury and South Central District Judge Bruce Romanick saw the video.
“It was violent; the jury found it violent,” Romanick said Tuesday before sentencing Powley to 20 years for the forcible acts and adding a 10-year consecutive sentence for an act committed while the victim was unaware. He said he didn’t know what started Powley’s lengthy criminal history, which prosecutors say includes assaults and probation violations, but putting him back on the street “doesn’t help anybody."
“It was a horrific crime,” Romanick said. “This is the new world of video. The jury took it seriously.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Marina Spahr said at the time of the trial that the video “made things very clear.” The jury deliberated for less than an hour. On Tuesday, Spahr asked Romanick to sentence Powley to life in prison without the possibility of parole, citing Powley's history of violent crimes, the harm done to the victim and the likelihood that Powley would reoffend. If he was ever released, she said, “there will be another crime.”
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Powley told Romanick he disagreed with most of what Spahr said, adding that he couldn’t read much of the presentence investigation because it triggered past trauma in his life and “it’s not who I am.” If he were guilty, he would have entered into a plea agreement, he said, “but I’m not guilty.” He said he was sorry for "letting his guard down and letting sex and alcohol into his house" by providing alcohol to the woman, who he knew to be an alcoholic, in exchange for sex.
Powley and his attorney, William Thomason, both asked for lighter sentences. Thomason said even the minimum sentences would make Powley a senior citizen when he’s released. His criminal history from other states and Canada is difficult to determine because the statutes aren’t consistent. His conviction is his first offense beyond a low-level felony, Thomason said.
“Given the nature and his age, 20 years is appropriate,” he said.
Romanick’s sentence includes 10 years of probation after Powley is released. He must also register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Multiple child pornography charges against Powley were dismissed earlier when prosecutors determined there wasn't enough evidence to show he intentionally downloaded the images to his cellphone.