ELIZABETH, N.J. — A woman stood and stared straight at the man who tainted her world and made it dark when he terrorized, robbed and sexually assaulted her and her male companion while at a motel six years ago and suggested his sentence should be execution.
“I hope you don’t have the option to see daylight again,” she said, adding she hopes his sentence would make him cry as much as his victims have.
The woman, one of eight victims, four women and four men, called Rasheed Powell a “monster” as she spoke in the crowded courtroom where Powell was sentenced to 148 years in state prison during the nearly two-hour proceeding.
The woman was one of four victims who spoke at the sentencing for Powell who was convicted in March of 60 counts, including 24 counts of aggravated sexual assault, in connection with forcing his way into motel rooms and forcing the couples to have sex at gunpoint, then locking the men in bathrooms and sexually assaulting the women.
The woman who addressed the court said the attack has made her a fearful person, robbing her of the young, social butterfly she once was.
“I’m afraid of people and what they are doing. I focus on work, family and I go straight home,” said the woman, who was attacked March 2012 at the Swan Motel in Linden, New Jersey.
Another woman sent a letter read by the judge explaining how the brutal assault on Easter Sunday 2012 changed her life forever by taking away her dignity and self-worth. She became suicidal and suffers from panic attacks, self mutilation and nightmares. She said Powell threatened to kill her and go after her family if she told anyone. She asked the judge to sentence Powell to life in prison.
The woman who spoke in court, however, also displayed her resilience.
“I’m standing up today. I won’t allow what you have done to control me,” she said. “You made your bed, now lie in it.”
Powell, 43, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, a father of two children who prosecutors said has been involved in crime since age 14 and has spent about 14 years of his adult life in prison for violent crime, meanwhile maintained his innocence.
“In due time proof will come out. I’m innocent,” said Powell, who argued he didn’t get a fair trial.
But Union County Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch told Powell his reign of terror ends, adding his DNA was extracted from a rape kit, five of the eight victims identified him, his former girlfriend turned over the mask and black jacket he wore during the crimes and police found the handgun.
“There was overwhelming proof set forth in the trial. Mr. Powell you are indeed a serial rapist,” Kirsch said.
Union County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit Supervisor Caroline Lawlor, who tried the case with Assistant Prosecutor Tracy Boyd, sought a 200 year prison term for Powell, noting the crimes were independent of each other, but Powell’s attorney Erin Cook, working with John Kean, sought an 80 year prison term, arguing the sentence should be based on each couple, not as individuals.
Kirsch however ruled that the sentence would be based on each individual victim.
“Each individual victim was traumatized independent of what was happening to their companion,” the judge said noting each man locked in the bathroom had to listen to their partner being raped or assaulted. “That is hard to wrap ones arms around, not knowing if it will end in death.”
In addition to the 24 counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, Powell also was convicted in March of 12 counts of sexual assault, eight counts of robbery, a first degree crime, four counts of burglary, a second degree crime and 12 weapons offenses. The verdict was reached following an eight week trial before Kirsch. The jury deliberated three and a half days.
During a six week period starting in March 2012 Powell began targeting couples checking into motels along Routes 1 and 9 in Linden and Elizabeth by forced his way into motel rooms and ordered the couples to engage in sex acts at gunpoint before ordering the men into the bathroom while Powell sexually assaulted the women.
During a joint investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office Sex Crimes Unit, now known as the Special Victims Unit, Linden and Elizabeth police, assisted by the Union County Sheriff’s Office and Union County Police Department, DNA and other forensic evidence resulted in Powell being identified as a suspect. He was arrested April 16, 2012 at Springfield Municipal Court where he was responding to a traffic summons.
Three of the New Jersey incidents occurred at the Swan Motel in Linden while the others occurred at the Benedict Motel, now called the Bentley, in Linden and the Spring Lane Motel and Royal Motel, both in Elizabeth.
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