Producer admits guilt in LIC slay

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A film producer from Long Island City pleaded guilty last week to manslaughter charges in the brutal slaying of an Afghan filmmaker he killed and dismembered in 2001, the Nassau County district attorney said.

Nathan Powell, 40, confessed in Nassau County Supreme Court June 4 to the murder of 42-year-old Jawed Wassel, a filmmaker from Afghanistan whose film Powell had produced, Nassau District Attorney Denis Dillon said.

“The defendant admitted that ... he killed the victim by beating him and stabbing him twice in the back while in the defendant’s apartment in Long Island City,” Dillon said in a news release. “The defendant admitted that he then dismembered the victim’s body in an attempt to dispose of it.”

Powell pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter charges and agreed to accept a 20-year prison sentence in a plea deal with the district attorney, Dillon said.

He was about to go on trial on two counts of second-degree murder when he decided to plead guilty to the lesser charge.

The victim’s brother, who attended last week’s hearing with other family members, told Judge Donald DeRiggi that the family supported the plea agreement and prison sentence.

Powell is scheduled to be sentenced July 7.

Wassel had written and directed an autobiographical movie called “Firedancer,” about the experience of Afghan refugees in America. But he never made it to the film’s screening in Manhattan on Oct. 3, 2001.

Powell beat and stabbed Wassel to death in his apartment at 21-07 Borden Ave. that night, then dismembered the body and attempted to dispose of it the following day, authorities said.

Officers stopped Powell near Bethpage State Park in Nassau County and searched the vehicle after noticing a shovel and two boxes with splashes of blood in the rear, police said.

Wassel’s dismembered body was uncovered in the boxes, while his head was later discovered in the refrigerator of Powell’s Long Island City residence, police said at the time.

At the time, police described the murder as a consequence of a business dispute over proceeds from the film, for which Powell was the primary investor and producer.

But Powell later said he snapped because he witnessed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks from his apartment, an argument that would have formed the basis of his defense.

Wassel’s film was recently shown as part of the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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