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EL man will face trial jury on child sex charges

LISBON — A Common Pleas Court jury was selected on Tuesday for Austin Powell, a wheelchair-bound East Liverpool area man charged with rape and two counts of gross sexual imposition involving two small children.

During opening arguments, Assistant County Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones said Powell, now 29, of East Liverpool Road, is accused of sexually assaulting the girls when they were between the ages of 6 and 9 years old. There are four years in difference between the girls, so the assaults allegedly occurred over several years beginning in 2009 and continuing through 2013.

At the time, the girls said nothing about what was happening and Jones said they did not know about what happened to the other. But the younger one eventually told a friend around July of 2018, leading to him helping her to tell family.

According to Jones, when the older sister heard what the younger one had told her mother, she also broke down and admitted the same type of things happened to her.

During one “game” when the child peaked from her blindfold, Jones said Powell reportedly became angry and threw her against the wall.

Investigators spoke with Powell’s doctor who treats him for the spina bifida he has suffered from his whole life. Jones told jurors the doctor had assured investigators Powell was physically capable of having sexual urges.

However, defense attorney James Wise said Powell lost the use of his legs many years ago after being able to use his legs only with braces a a child. He has been in a wheel chair for many years and crawls around his trailer because the doorways are too small for his chair to fit.

“He doesn’t have the strength to throw someone around,” Wise told the jury, adding Powell struggles daily to do many of the things everyone else takes for granted. “He will tell you that he did not do this. He would never hurt (them) and none of this happened.”

Jurors heard about the investigation from Paula Beverly, an investigator from Jobs and Children Services after opening statements when the trial began in the afternoon. She testified about the steps taken in the investigation leading to charges being filed.

The jury trial is expected to continue today.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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