By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The fate of a London man now lies in the hands of the Department of Corrections after his sentencing hearing on Friday.
Charles Douglas Phelps, 54, appeared in court on Friday afternoon for sentencing on charges of tampering with a witness and possession of material depicting a minor in a sexual performance. Phelps pled guilty to both charges on November 1 and was recommended to serve a two-year sentence for the child pornography charge and a one-year sentence for tampering with a witness. The two sentences will run consecutively, giving Phelps a total of three years.
After appearing in court with his attorneys Gary Crabtree and Conrad Cessna, Phelps was taken into custody and lodged in the Laurel County Detention Center.
As part of the plea agreement Phelps entered on Nov. 1, he will register as a sexual offender for 20 years. He will also receive credit for serving 23 days in jail. His first opportunity for probation will be after he serves 20 percent of the three-year sentence, which averages to just over 7 months. However, with the credit for time already served in jail, Phelps should come up for a parole hearing in just over 6 1/2 months.
Where Phelps will serve his time is now in the hands of the Kentucky Department of Corrections. Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele said his office has no input or recommendations on where inmates serve their prison time.
Phelps, who was the former director of pupil personnel for the Laurel County School System, was suspended from his position in Nov. 2011 after allegations that he had exposed a 14- and a 17-year-old girl to sexual contact. He was also accused of providing alcohol to the 14-year-old.
Phelps was indicted on three counts of sexual abuse and two counts of unlawful transaction with a minor in Feb. 2012. He was no longer an employee of the school system after the indictment. However, the recanting of the 14-year-old victim resulted in the dismissal of four counts of the indictment but the sexual abuse charge involving the 17-year-old victim remained.
On October 8, Phelps’ trial on that charge was continued when the witness failed to appear in court. Phelps was placed on home incarceration and ordered to have no contact with either of the victims in the original case. The next day he was jailed for violating the conditions of that bond. On October 18, he was indicted for bribing a witness and tampering with a witness for allegedly encouraging the witness in that case not to come to court to testify against him.
On November 1, Phelps pled guilty to tampering with a witness and to an “indictment by information” for possessing material depicting a minor in a sexual performance. Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele said that came from seizure of Phelps’ cell phone which had pictures of underage girls engaging in a sexual act — a felony offense. At the plea hearing, Phelps waived his right to an arraignment on that charge and entered a guilty plea without going before a Laurel grand jury for possible indictment on those charges. He also plead to the tampering with a witness charge, with the sexual abuse charge being dismissed as part of the plea agreement.