A Minnesota attorney is accused of sexually assaulting a client in his office while representing her during divorce proceedings.
Jesse Powell was charged Monday with one count of third-degree criminal sexual contact and four additional counts of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, according to court documents. The criminal complaint is centered around allegations from one woman, who had hired Powell starting in February of 2021 as her divorce attorney.
The 32-year-old has a law office, Powell Law, PLLC, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. His home city is listed as Bigfork.
According to the criminal charges, the victim said over the course of about six months, Powell made inappropriate comments toward her, touched her without consent and on one occasion raped her in his law office.
An investigator assigned to the case said he confirmed the victim's accounts with people she'd previously told, including coworkers and her current lawyer.
The charges include additional allegations from another woman, who said Powell made inappropriate sexual comments about her body and touched her after she'd hired him in September of 2020. Powell previously served as assistant county attorney in Itasca County and was suspended for five days after female coworkers reported he'd made inappropriate comments toward them, the charges state.
A complaint summons was filed against Powell Monday. He has not made a court appearance, nor are any currently scheduled. The case is being prosecuted by the Pine County Attorney's Office.
A search on Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board shows no public disciplinary decisions on Powell's record.
Bring Me The News has reached out to Powell for comment.
What the charges say
According to the charges:
The victim spoke with an Aitkin County investigator in September of 2021, and said she had hired Powell in February as her divorce attorney. She detailed four incidents involving Powell:
March 2: Before a scheduled mediation, Powell hugged her and pressed his body close to hers, then when she asked to use the restroom, blocked the door suggested she do so with him there. He relented, but after she came out of the bathroom, he commented on her chest and said she should have emerged with fewer clothes on.
June 3: She went to Powell's office. He pushed her into the bathroom and raped her.
July 28: She went to his office to drop off paperwork. While there, he made inappropriate comments and touched her without her consent.
Aug. 2: At Powell's office pre-trial, he walked into the bathroom ahead of her, exposed himself, touched her, and put his hand around her throat and slapped her lower body.
The woman switched lawyers on Aug. 5. Investigators spoke to individuals the victim said she'd described the incidents to, including coworkers and her new lawyer. They confirmed her accounts. The woman also said she had email records with a mediator describing what happened with Powell.
Legal records show another woman took out a harassment order against Powell on March 15, 2020. She told an investigator that in September of 2020, she had hired Powell. He then made inappropriate comments about her appearance, played footsie with her and touched her thigh. At a later date, he invited her to his home via Snapchat, which she declined.
She reported him, and in a letter Powell sent to the Office of Lawyers' Professional Responsibility dated Feb. 19, 2021, he said the contact was simply him trying to get her attention before a court Zoom call while she was distracted. He also apologized for one comment as a slip of the tongue and "misunderstood joke," and said he took medication that caused "several side effects and uncharacteristic behavior."
Investigators looked into complaints he'd received while serving as assistant county attorney in Itasca County from Aug. 29, 2016, to June 12, 2020. The complaints were substantiated, and Powell received a five-day suspension for violation of workplace behavior policy. All the complaints were tied to inappropriate and sexual comments he made toward women about their appearance.