By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A former school administrator will serve a three-year prison sentence and register as a sex offender after entering guilty pleas in Laurel Circuit Court on Thursday.
Charles Douglas Phelps, 54, answered “guilty” to two felony charges before Laurel Circuit Judge Tom Jensen.
Clad in a brown jumpsuit issued from the Laurel County Detention Center, the 54-year-old Phelps stood between his attorneys, Gary Crabtree and Conrad Cessna, both of London, as he entered the guilty pleas.
Phelps will now serve a two-year sentence for possessing child pornography, followed by another year’s imprisonment for tampering with a witness. He is currently on home incarceration until his sentencing date of Nov. 15, with the conditions he have no contact with two victims in a sexual abuse indictment and no access to or possession of a cell phone, computer, the Internet, or text messaging device. He is permitted to leave his residence only for court appearances and to meet with the Office of Probation and Parole.
Phelps’ trial date for first-degree sexual abuse was put off on Oct. 8 when the witness failed to appear to testify against him. Phelps was ordered to have no contact with either victim of a 2012 indictment that accused him of exposing then 14- and 17-year old girls to sexual contact in early Nov. 2011. He was indicted in Feb. 2012 on three counts of first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of unlawful transaction with a minor in which he allegedly exposed the 14-year-old to sexual contact and gave her alcohol on Nov. 3 and Nov. 5, and subjecting the 17-year-old to sexual contact and giving her alcohol on Nov. 5.
But when the 14-year-old recanted her claims just before Phelps’ trial date last year, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele requested those charges be dropped. The sexual contact charge involving the 17-year-old remained.
On Oct. 8, Phelps was set for trial on the sexual abuse against the 17-year-old, who did not appear in court. He was ordered by Jensen to have no contact with the victims or their families and to go on home incarceration between 6:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. on his conditions of making bond, until his new trial date of Dec. 2. However, Phelps was jailed on Oct. 9 for violating his bond conditions, although it was never specified which condition he had violated.
Just days later, Phelps was indicted on other related charges for tampering with a witness and bribing a witness (17-year-old) in the case.
The latest “indictment by information” came when Phelps’ cell phone was confiscated and pictures of minor age children doing sexual acts were found on it, which constituted the “indictment by information” that brought on the pleas entered on Thursday.
Phelps waived his right for a formal arraignment on two new charges of possession of materials portraying a sexual performance by a minor, and moved straight to a hearing and sentencing on the “indictment by information” rather than have the new charges presented to a grand jury.
Crabtree addressed Jensen during the hearing, stating Phelps wished to enter a guilty plea on two different counts — one on the possession of child pornography charge and his most recent indictment of “tampering with a witness.”
Jensen did allow the motion for bond on all three cases to be set at $10,000 cash, the amount originally set in the sex abuse indictment. That bond was posted and Phelps was placed on home incarceration until his sentencing date of Nov. 15.
In accordance with KRS statutes involving crimes against minor age children and the charges of possessing child pornography, Phelps will have to register as a sexual offender and remain on that register for 20 years — or until he is 74 years old. Sexual offenders must report their residences, cannot live with 1,000 yards of a school or child care facility, and cannot work in any field where minor age children are present.
Phelps was the director of pupil personnel for the Laurel County School District in Nov. 2011 when the alleged sexual contact and access to alcohol occurred. After the claims of sexual abuse came to light, Phelps was suspended while the investigation was underway. He vacated his position with the school system after his indictment in February 2012.