October 8, 2013

Phelps’ trial set for today

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer


A former school administrator accused of improper interactions with a minor-age female is set for trial on Tuesday.

Charles D. Phelps, 53, of London, is charged with first-degree sexual abuse of a then 17-year-old female stemming from an incident that took place in Nov. 2011.

The final pretrial for Phelps was held on Thursday in Laurel Circuit Court; however, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele said previously he did not expect any plea bargain to be reached and expected the case would go to trial.

Phelps allegedly exposed the teen to sexual contact. At the time of the incident, Phelps was the director of pupil personnel with the Laurel County School System and arguments by attorneys involved in the case centered around two issues: that the victim was over 16 years old and whether Phelps used his position in the school system to influence the girl.

Originally Phelps was indicted for two other  counts of sexual contact with another girl, a 14-year-old, as well as two counts of unlawful transaction with a minor. But just before the trial was set to begin in early February, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office received an audiotape in which the victim admitted she lied. Two days later, prosecuting attorneys filed for a dismissal of the four charges involving the 14-year-old girl but asked for the fifth charge with the 17-year-old to stand.

That charge was sent before the Kentucky Supreme Court to review. The issues at question were that the 17-year-old was above the state’s sexual statutory age limit and whether Phelps violated his “position of trust” as a school administrator.

The Supreme Court ruled first-degree sexual abuse can occur with persons under 18 years when “a person in a position of authority or position of special trust....with whom he or she comes into contact as a result of that position.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele then filed a motion in May to reinstate the indictment against Phelps on the sexual abuse charge involving the 17-year-old. Phelps posted bond on that charge and has remained free until his court dates.