October 10, 2013

Arrest warrant issued for no-show witness

Phelps’ trial re-set

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The trial for a former school administrator accused of sexual contact with a teenage girl was reset for Dec. 2.

Charles Douglas Phelps, 54, appeared in court Tuesday morning with his attorneys, Gary Crabtree and Conrad Cessna, to answer to the charges that he had sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl in November 2011. However, the victim in the case was not present.

An warrant has been issued for her arrest.

Due to the no-show witness, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele requested a new trial date. He also requested that Phelps be incarcerated for violating his bond condition of no contact with the victim or witnesses.

“Since the trial date was set in August, he has had contact with the victim, yet we can’t locate her to come to the trial,” Steele said after the proceedings. “I moved to continue the trial due to the victim evading the process. Mr. Crabtree requested that the case be dismissed. Then I requested that he (Phelps) be put in jail for violating his bond.”

The arguments between the attorneys went on for over an hour before Laurel Circuit Judge Tom Jensen. Jensen then ordered Phelps to be on home incarceration from 6:30 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. The reason for those hours of restriction was Phelps said he had been working on his brother’s farm during the day but that the hours of work varied. Crabtree argued Phelps should not be jailed because he had appeared in court at every scheduled trial date and that neither he nor Phelps were aware of any “no contact” condition with one of the victims named in the original indictment.

“There is no reason to put my client in custody if you’re going to continue the case,” Crabtree argued.

But Steele argued that the bond conditions specifically state there be no contact between Phelps, victim(s), or any witnesses in the case, and Crabtree and Phelps were both well versed with those conditions.

“Mr. Crabtree’s client is not illiterate,” Steele said. “He signed his name to the bond to have no contact.”

To further his argument, Steele said phone records show there have been more than 500 cell phone communications between Phelps and the victim since the indictment in February 2012. In fact, he presented to Jensen that of 536 texts between the two, Phelps had sent 251. There were also 26 phone calls, with eight of those made by Phelps.

But Crabtree stated again he was not aware of any “no contact” restrictions on the female whose case had been dismissed in the original indictment, which named a then 14-year-old girl in four counts and a 17-year-old girl in a fifth count. The charges involving the 14-year-old girl were dismissed after the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office received an audiotape of the younger victim admitting she had lied about the incident with Phelps. However, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled to uphold the fifth charge involving the then 17-year-old girl on the basis Phelps was in an authority position as an administrator with the Laurel County School System when the incident took place.

Crabtree admitted he had advised Phelps not to have any contact with either girl, but he could not stop the younger girl from contacting Phelps.

“I was aware that (she) had contacted my client. I told him not to have any contact with her,” Crabtree told Jensen. “Perhaps Mr. Steele needs to tell her. He knows her very well. It’s a two-way street.”

Jensen warned Phelps the charges brought up by the Commonwealth Attorney’s office were “very serious.”

“Beginning today, you will have no contact with (other girl), and perhaps we need to look at additional conditions,” Jensen said. “I’m going to give you another chance.”

Jensen then reiterated Phelps be on home incarceration from 6:30 in the evenings until 6:30 in the mornings.

“That way you won’t be out here running around,” Jensen said.

He also set a new trial date for Dec. 2, with Phelps’ final pre-trial scheduled for Nov. 22.