October 22, 2013

Phelps indicted for bribing witness

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — More legal troubles surfaced for a former school administrator on the day he was set for a hearing on violating his bond conditions.

Now, instead of just facing an upcoming trial for alleged sexual abuse, 54-year-old Charles Douglas Phelps has an additional indictment for tampering with a witness and bribing a witness.

The latest indictment claims that from Aug. 1 through Oct. 9 of this year, Phelps assisted the key witness and victim in his sexual abuse case not to appear in court to testify against him. He is also charged with paying the witness - “all with the intent to influence the outcome of the proceedings,” according to the indictment returned by a Laurel grand jury on Friday morning.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Terry Beckner said he had no problem taking the most recent indictment to trial on Dec. 2, when Phelps is set to answer the charge of sexual abuse against a female who was 17 years old at the time. He also said Phelps should have no bond.

But Gary Crabtree, Phelps’ attorney, objected and then asked Laurel Circuit Judge Tom Jensen to release Phelps on home incarceration.

“I ask the court to set the same conditions that were last imposed (no contact with witnesses) and the addition to home incarceration,” Crabtree said. “His brothers have both offered to have custody and that fully secures the obligation.”

Jensen, however, said Phelps was currently in jail for violating the bond conditions on the original indictment, but he would take Crabtree’s request “under submission” before ordering Phelps to be placed back into custody of the jail.

His original trial was scheduled on  Oct. 8 in Laurel Circuit Court. Phelps is accused of exposing an underage female to sexual contact in Nov. 2012. But when the witness failed to appear in court that day, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele requested Phelps be incarcerated for having contact with the witness when his bond specifically stated “no contact.” Jensen, however, gave Phelps “a second chance,” ordering him to be on house arrest from 6:30 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. and outlining the conditions of his release on bond as having no contact with the victim or witnesses in the case.

The next day, Phelps was arrested for violating the bond, although no specifics were available in Jensen’s Order of Arrest document as to which conditions had been violated. The order of arrest, however, listed Friday, Oct. 18 as the day to review the case.

After the indictment returned on Friday, Phelps will appear in Laurel Circuit court on Nov. 15 for a status hearing on the bond violation as well a hearing on the bribery and tampering with a witness charges.