Tiffany Powell had an odd request for her sentencing Thursday morning for the murder of her ex-boyfriend: she didn’t want to be there.
Powell’s inquiry sent attorneys and the judge scrambling to see whether she could be sentenced without being present in the Summit County courtroom.
Powell ultimately relented, though, sitting the whole time — rather than standing, as a defendant normally does — and shielding her face with her hands and a tissue.
“I didn’t want this to happen,” Powell, 34, of Akron, said during her remarks during the sentencing. “I would never want my children to look at their mom and say, ‘You killed dad.’?”
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Tom Teodosio sentenced Powell to life in prison for aggravated murder and 30 months for obstructing justice, with the terms to be served consecutively. She will be eligible for parole after 30 years and 30 months.
Powell faced between 20 years to life in prison. She plans to appeal.
A jury convicted Powell of being the mastermind behind the beating death of 69-year-old James Harris, Powell’s ex-boyfriend and the father of five of her eight children. Prosecutors say Powell lured Harris, who lived in Canton, to her Akron home April 26, 2014, where Paul Reed, her new boyfriend, beat Harris to death in the basement. Harris was there under the guise of looking at a car and a washer he might want to purchase.
Reed, 40, of Akron, was convicted of murder in February 2015 and sentenced to life in prison. He is appealing.
Powell claimed during her jury trial that she got Harris to come to her home so that he would violate a restraining order that she mistakenly thought was still in place. She hoped this would allow her to regain custody of and protect her children. She reiterated this claim during her remarks in court Thursday.
“I had to do something,” she said. “It was an emergency ... I never would have risked to kill anyone.”
Powell’s attorney, Kerry O’Brien, said his client was uncomfortable appearing at her sentencing because she was afraid. He urged Teodosio to consider sentencing Powell to 20 years to life, the lowest possible amount of time for her convictions.
Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel though urged Teodosio to sentence Powell to life in prison.
“She planned to take the life of James Harris,” Baumoel said.
“That’s a lie,” Powell said, prompting a warning to remain quiet.
Trina Danzy, one of Harris’ adult daughters, spoke during the sentencing, reminiscing about her father.
She said he wasn’t at all like how he was portrayed during the trials of Reed and Powell. She said Harris, a father of 10, was a loving father who instilled in his children a love of God and an appreciation for education. She said he coached track and started Ebony Stars, a track club for inner-city youths.
“I miss dad so much,” she said, trying to stifle her tears.
Jamila Mitchell, another of Harris’ adult daughters, said she didn’t plan to speak, but had to after hearing Powell’s remarks. She called Powell a liar, manipulator and a neglectful mother who hasn’t accepted responsibility for her role in Harris’ death.
“Now, you’re a killer,” she said. “The only victim here is my father.”
Mitchell said Powell never cried after Harris’ death.
“The tears you see are something for herself,” she said.
Teodosio said Powell lured Harris to her home and to his death. He said their relationship facilitated his death and she has shown “little or no remorse.” He said he thought the consecutive sentences were appropriate because of her “danger to the public.”
O’Brien objected to the consecutive sentences, and was overruled by Teodosio. He also asked Teodosio to put in a request with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction that Powell serve her time at the Marysville prison. Teodosio refused and said he will allow the prison department to decide where Powell should be housed.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.