A former South Laurel choral director began serving a five-year sentence for sex abuse and sodomy following his sentencing on Wednesday.
Mark Anthony Felts, 57, of Brandon Drive in Corbin, appeared with his attorney, David Hoskins, before Laurel Circuit Judge Michael Caperton for the sentencing. Felts had previously pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree sexual abuse and one count of third-degree sodomy with the Commonwealth Attorney's office recommending he serve a five-year sentence on each count, which would run concurrently, or at the same time, giving Felts a total of five years in prison.
During Wednesday's sentencing hearing, Hoskins asked that Felts' sentencing be postponed until December, stating that the classes for sexual offenders was backlogged due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that it could be five years before Felts could be enrolled in the required classes. He added that some convicts had served their time but had not completed the classes and could not be paroled, causing them to serve additional jail time. Hoskins pointed out that Felts had been free on bond for two years and had cooperated with all court requirements and would be no problem in maintaining that cooperation to take the sex offender classes.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Brandon Jones said he was aware that the classes had been backed up but that a referral for the sexual offender classes could only come after someone had been formally sentenced.
That spurred a discussion among Caperton, Jones and Hoskins regarding the procedure for the classes, with Jones stating they usually lasted two years and could be completed while Felts was incarcerated. Hoskins said if an allowance was made for Felts' situation, he could complete the classes before serving any jail time. Caperton asked about the policy for Probation and Parole in such cases, with Jones stating the question should be directed to the Department of Corrections. He did, however, say that sentencing should go forward as scheduled despite the backup of sex offender classes.
"I don't see where he should be treated any differently than anyone else," Jones said. "He can complete the classes while he is in custody. By KRS (Kentucky Revised Statutes), he has to complete the program before he can be released."
Caperton said he had received numerous letters of support for Felts, some of which stated the authors were in disbelief that Felts entered a guilty plea to the charges. Further statements from some of those letters asked for leniency in Felts' case - asking Caperton to "let him go" or place him on probation rather than serve the five-year sentence.
Caperton, however, said that Felts had pled guilty on his own accord, then outlined the options that a defendant has in the court system - to go to a jury trial or enter the plea. Hoskins said Felts was not withdrawing his plea agreement with the Commonwealth Attorney's office, but was asking for time to enroll in the sex offender classes before he began serving his sentence.
"To extend the sentencing for two years to complete the program is hard to do," Caperton said.
He then continued with the sentencing hearing, outlining that Felts had pleaded guilty to the two offenses with the recommendation of five year each which would run at the same time.
"To Count 1, you will serve 5 years. To Count 7, you will serve 5 years. The sentences will run concurrent, giving you a total of 5 years, and you will register as a sex offender for the rest of your life," Caperton said to Felts. "You are remanded for service of your sentence."
With that, Felts exited the courtroom to be in custody of court personnel and to be transported to Laurel County Correctional Center. According to records from the jail, Felts was booked at 4:41 p.m. on Wednesday.
Felts was originally indicted on one count of sodomy against a minor. But other charges were then filed against the former choral director, with that indictment overriding the first indictment. The new indictment charged Felts with six counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor just a month away from the 15th birthday. The occasions stated in the indictment claims that Felts had sexual contact with the victim in March 2015, November 2015, January 2016, October 2016, and two occasions in February 2017. The final charge of third-degree sodomy derived from an incident in Spring 2017 involving another person less than 18 years old.