TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

February 5, 2013

Phelps walks from sex charges

One charge pending before Supreme Court

CORBIN — By Nita Johnson / CNHI News Service

Four charges against a former Laurel County School administrator accused of sexual abuse and unlawful transaction with a minor have been dismissed.

Charles Douglas Phelps, 54, who served as the director of pupil personnel for more than 10 years, appeared before Laurel Circuit Judge Tom Jensen on Monday to review the motion filed last week by Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele. The motion asked for the dismissal of all four charges involving a 14-year-old girl and an abeyance (delay) on a fifth count involving a 17-year-old girl.

Phelps was suspended from his position with the school system in November 2011 after an investigation was launched by the Kentucky State Police. Phelps allegedly exposed the 14-year-old girl to sexual contact on Nov. 3 and Nov. 5 of 2011. He also allegedly gave the minor alcohol on both occasions. On a separate charge, Phelps is also accused of exposing a 17-year-old to sexual contact on Nov. 5, 2011.

Steele said he had no choice but to ask for a dismissal of the charges involving the 14-year-old Thursday, after the key witness said she lied about the alleged interactions with Phelps. Phelps’ jury trial was set to begin Monday.

In his motion to dismiss, Steele wrote: “(The witness) was brought to my office for trial preparation on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 and again Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 at which time she reviewed her previous statements and the phone conversation which had just been provided. At that time, (the witness) identified numerous statements in her prior interviews that were incorrect.”  He noted in his motion there was also no DNA evidence against Phelps.

Specifically, the motion reads:

“With the different versions of events, the material inaccuracies and the new audio tape just recently received in which (she) states she lied about the events in Count I, 2,  3, and 4, the Commonwealth finds itself with a witness who has a lack of credibility regarding the events that took place....as they pertain to her.

“As such the Commonwealth cannot in good faith ask a jury to convict based upon her statements. It is important to note that there is no tangible evidence, such as DNA, or any other witness that would testify about the events at the time of the alleged events.”

The motion also asked for an abeyance on Count 5 of the indictment against Phelps, in which he is allegedly accused of exposing a 17-year-old girl to sexual abuse. That case is pending before the Kentucky Supreme Court.  

Because the age of sexual consent in Kentucky is 16 and the girl was 17 at the time of the alleged incident, that charge is being reviewed. The second aspect under review is whether or not Phelps misused his authority position to have contact with the girl, as she had not been a student in the Laurel County system for more than a year prior. Therefore, the question of the legality of that charge is being challenged.

Gary Crabtree, Phelps’ attorney, said he could not comment on the case with the other charge still pending.

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