INC NEWS - COURT WATCH: Powell to be tried as Habitual Felon
southernc at mindspring.com
Fri Oct 13 06:54:53 EDT 2006
I am pleased to see that the DA is pursuing Habitual Felon status for Mr.
Powell, for the fatal hit-and-run.
However, it is critical that the DA also:
- pursues felony Voluntary Manslaughter charges (not misdemeanor "death by
- asks the judge to sentence him consecutively (rather than concurrently)
for each conviction on each new felony charge
- gets the Ohio rape charge classified as a NC Class B1 felony (for the
purpose of calculating his prior record level)
- attaches Habitual Felon to one of the lesser related felonies (to obtain
the maximum total sentence)
If all of these things happen, Mr. Powell could get over 23 years in prison.
(See my previous email.)
Otherwise (as things stand now), he could get only 107 months or less in
prison (under 9 years).
Light sentence calculation:
(107 months: based on Class C felony sentence, 14 prior record points)
- Ohio rape counted as NC Class I felony (only 2 prior record points)
- concurrent sentencing on lesser Class H felony conviction
Driver to be tried as habitual felon
A man arrested after a fatal wreck in Durham has a history of nearly 100
By Matt Dees, Staff Writer: News & Observer
A 12-YEAR RECORD
Shawn Powell's traffic-related charges:
* 1994, failure to stop for red light, two counts of driving with license
revoked. Paid about $425 in court costs.
* 1995, driving with license revoked, driving with no vehicle insurance.
Paid $240 in court costs.
* 1996, driving with license revoked. Barred from driving for one year.
* 1997, reckless driving to endanger, hit-and-run, failure to heed siren.
Six- to eight-month prison sentence, suspended, 24 months' probation.
* 2002, driving with license revoked, failure to stop at stop sign/red
light. Dismissed in court with offenses subject to reinstatement.
* 2005, driving with license revoked, revoked registration tag. Powell
failed to appear in court.
* 2006, no operator's license, no registration, driving with license
revoked. Dismissed by district attorney with option to reinstate. He faced
other, more serious felony charges, for which he failed again to appear in
DURHAM - One of the first of many charges to be filed against Shawn Maurice
Powell was a citation for failing to stop at a red light in 1994.
He paid a $25 fine, but that was only the beginning of Powell's life of
crime that, police say, culminated last week in the death of Lisa Knelson.
Powell's most recent brush with the law matches that harbinger 12 years ago
-- he is charged with running a red light and striking Knelson's car,
killing her almost instantly.
Only this time, $25 won't be nearly enough to get Powell back on the
The Durham County District Attorney's Office plans to try him as a habitual
felon, a classification that could greatly lengthen his prison sentence if
Powell is convicted in Knelson's death.
Though Powell has served prison time for some of the nearly 100 charges he
has faced in the past dozen years, Knelson's family and some residents have
asked why someone with that kind of rap sheet wasn't more harshly punished.
"Assuredly, it seems ridiculous that someone with [Powell's record] can
freely roam the streets creating havoc at will," Lise Fondren, Knelson's
sister-in-law, wrote in an e-mail message.
Powell has been convicted of at least six felonies and 10 misdemeanors. Many
of those convictions were plea deals that consolidated numerous charges into
a single sentence.
He has served a total of about three years in prison or jail over the past
12 years for the offenses.
Most recently, he was convicted in Ohio of first-degree sexual offense with
a child in June 2005, for which he received probation, records show.
One of the reasons Powell has not done more time is that his crimes have
almost all been low-level felonies or misdemeanors -- car theft, possession
of stolen goods, assault, hit-and-run.
The habitual-felon classification is designed to punish repeat offenders
more harshly for even petty felonies.
Assistant District Attorney Dave Shick is heading the case against Powell
and is still analyzing the record.
He said he is not sure yet whether he can get a habitual-felon
classification for Powell, but Powell's record indicates that he qualifies.
Here's how the habitual-felon system works:
Someone has to have been convicted of felonies on three separate occasions
to be sentenced as a habitual felon.
If someone gets arrested and charged with more than one felony and is
convicted of all of them on the same day, that only counts as one
After the third separate felony conviction, a fourth raises the stakes.
The jury in the fourth case doesn't learn until after rendering a verdict
that the defendant is eligible for habitual-felon status.
Once the jury finds the defendant guilty, it is asked to hear evidence on
whether the person should be sentenced as such.
If the jury agrees, the judge increases the sentence according to court
Four of Powell's six felony convictions occurred separately, the last one
the sexual abuse charge in Ohio. He fits the legal criteria.
Knelson's family members want to see Powell punished. They just wish he had
been punished more before he allegedly slammed a stolen car into their loved
"The thing that hurts most, that makes this wound so raw, is the randomness
and finality of the consequences of his actions," Fondren wrote.
"If justice had been served in any of a handful of his convictions, surely
the consequences of his actions would have been the opposite of random, they
would have been predicted, by the court system and even the criminal
Staff writer Matt Dees can be reached at 956-2433 or
matt.dees at newsobserver.com.
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