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Grand Rapids attorney arrested, arraigned on sex assault charges

Jesse Powell was booked into the Itasca County Jail on Tuesday night, a day after missing his scheduled arraignment.

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DULUTH — After failing to show for an initial court appearance Monday, a Grand Rapids attorney was arrested and arraigned from jail on sexual assault charges.

Jesse Robert Powell, 32, was set for his first hearing in State District Court in Grand Rapids via Zoom at 1 p.m. Monday. But he did not enter the virtual courtroom at the scheduled time, prompting Judge Annie Claesson-Huseby to issue a bench warrant.

Claesson-Huseby indicated Powell eventually logged on at approximately 3:15 p.m.

Jesse Robert Powell
Jesse Robert Powell

"He sent me a direct chat saying sorry for being late and wanted to discuss the situation with me," the judge wrote in an email filed in the case. "I read the chat out loud on the record, told Mr. Powell I could not discuss the case with him as it would be ex parte, and told him he had a warrant for his arrest."

Records show that Powell was booked into the Itasca County Jail on Tuesday night and arraigned Wednesday morning. Claesson-Huseby said Powell could be released on his own recognizance with multiple pretrial conditions or by posting an unconditional $50,000 bond.

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Powell, of Bigfork, was charged by summons last month with one felony count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and four gross misdemeanor counts of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

A criminal complaint states that two former clients told an Aitkin County sheriff's investigator that Powell had displayed a pattern of sexual misconduct in their private meetings. The most serious count involves an allegation that he forced one woman into the bathroom at his law office and raped her last June.

PREVIOUSLY: Grand Rapids attorney accused of raping client

The complaint also includes allegations that Powell made a series of sexualized comments toward the women and engaged in various forms of unwanted touching. One of the former clients ended up obtaining a restraining order against the attorney due to his continued harassment.

Powell, a former assistant Itasca County attorney, has most recently operated independently at Powell Law, PLLC, 1045 E. U.S. Highway 169 in Grand Rapids, handling criminal defense, family law, civil litigation and estate-planning cases.

He was admitted to the Minnesota bar in 2015 and his license remains active, though the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility is investigating.

Claesson-Huseby, a Bemidji judge assigned to hear the case after the recusal of all three members of the Itasca County bench, set Powell's next court appearance for Jan. 24.

The case is being prosecuted by Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson. Powell has not yet retained an attorney.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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