Jodonnell Powell Jr. Credit: BPD

A 39-year-old homeless man has been charged with sexual battery after groping a developmentally disabled woman in downtown Berkeley on Thursday, authorities report.

The man, identified as Jodonnell Powell Jr., has been a registered sex offender since at least 2007, according to court records reviewed by Berkeleyside. He was also arrested in 2019 on suspicion of groping three young women near the UC Berkeley campus. He was charged in that case but an Alameda County Superior Court judge later dismissed those charges, according to court records.

Last week, police said, Powell repeatedly grabbed a 25-year-old Berkeley woman in front of the Target store at 2187 Shattuck Ave. (at Allston Way) at about 3 p.m. Security footage from Target recorded him repeatedly touching the woman’s private areas “while she was obviously uncomfortable,” according to court documents.

A Berkeley parking enforcement officer (PEO) noticed what was happening and reported it to BPD, police said in a prepared statement: “Thanks to the quick thinking of the PEO, officers were able to detain the suspect.”

Two witnesses — the parking enforcement officer and a bystander — identified Powell at the scene, police said.

When Powell spoke to police, according to court papers, he said “he was giving a ‘friendly hug’ to the victim and there was no sexual touching.”

On Friday, the DA’s office charged Powell with misdemeanor sexual battery, according to court papers. He entered a not-guilty plea Monday.

Powell remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin with a bail of $10,000, according to court records. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Thursday at Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.

Powell has a lengthy criminal history in Alameda County dating back to at least 2007, according to Alameda County Superior Court records online. He was charged with violations related to his sex offender status, including failure to register or update his address, in 2007, 2008 and 2014.

None of the court documents available from the county include the reason Powell was placed on the sex offender registry in the first place.

What criminal records do reveal is that Powell has had a number of other run-ins with the law dating back more than a decade. The most serious appear below.

In 2008, Powell was convicted of felony marijuana sales and put on probation. In 2011, he was convicted of one count of felony burglary after multiple burglary cases were consolidated, according to records reviewed by Berkeleyside. Powell was then sentenced to 16 months in prison.

In 2016, he was convicted of felony assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury. He was sentenced to probation through September 2021 and placed in an outpatient treatment program in Berkeley run by BOSS, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency.

Prior to last week’s incident, Powell’s most recent criminal charges in Alameda County came in July 2019. That month, in separate incidents near the UC Berkeley campus, authorities said he grabbed three young women by their buttocks or genital areas.

Two of the women identified Powell as the man who grabbed them, according to court papers reviewed by Berkeleyside in 2019. Powell also offered his own confession, according to BPD.

“I grabbed three girls,” he told police during a Mirandized statement, according to charging documents from 2019. Regarding one of the women, who was Asian, Powell told police, “I touched her … butt on Shattuck. I touched another Asian girl butt on Telegraph. And that’s the white girl. I touched her butt.”

The DA’s office initially charged Powell in 2019 with two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery but the court dismissed the case in September 2020.

At the time, Powell was participating in the Life House Recovery Homes transitional housing program, according to court records. A clinician told the court Powell was “doing well at Lifehouse in Hayward, attending groups and is medication compliant. The client is working with JAMHR [Justice & Mental Health Recovery Program] and engaged. The DA requests a week to contact the victims.”

The case was dismissed at the public defender’s request, according to court papers, after the DA was unable to reach the victims.

Featured photo: Emilie Raguso

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...