IOW sheriff indicted?

Published 11:04 am Saturday, May 7, 2011

ISLE OF WIGHT — Isle of Wight County Sheriff C.W. “Charlie” Phelps said he fears a situation involving a felon volunteering in his office could result in his arrest after he learned two sealed indictments were issued Friday.

Phelps said he’s also concerned that his son, Paul Phelps, who works for the sheriff’s office, may be charged.

“I don’t know,” Phelps said Friday evening from Harrisonburg, where he planned to attend his granddaughter’s graduation on Saturday at James Madison University. “I’m lost for what they’re doing.”

He said he learned Friday from his major that the Virginia Attorney General’s Office had asked an Isle of Wight grand jury for an indictment.

Phelps said he assumes it’s related to a Virginia State Police investigation of Jonathan Burns, a felon volunteering in the sheriff’s office. A search warrant filed Oct. 25 requested e-mails concerning Burns from or received by seven people associated with the sheriff’s office or the county’s emergency communication center, including Charlie Phelps.

Burns, a four-time convicted felon, worked for the sheriff’s office as a volunteer aide, but apparently carried a Taser, wore a uniform and badge, and participated in some arrests. After serving as a volunteer, Burns was hired in March 2010 in a support capacity but has since been terminated.

Burns’ status was made public a year ago, and Phelps said he was interviewed in June by a State Police investigator.

“I have had no more contact with him, with the Attorney General’s Office, with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office,” he said.

Phelps, who is running for re-election this year, has consulted with his attorney over the Burns situation.

“My lawyer told me he doesn’t know of any charge I would have to face,” Phelps said.

As for his son, part of the investigation focused on Burns allegedly having a Taser.

“I never saw him with a Taser, and it’s my understanding my son, who is a captain, and my major, both of them had a discussion over it — whether he was allowed to have it or whether it was not legal. He was told ‘to keep his hands off it,’” Phelps said. “The big issue is that my son was supposed to have given him the Taser.”

At this point, Phelps said, he can only assume any indictment sought by the Virginia Attorney General would be related to the Burns matter.

“I don’t know if the sealed indictments are for me and my son or whether for another individual,” he said. “I’m not gonna run anywhere. I’ve got no reason. I’m not guilty of anything.”

Brian Gottstein, director of communications for Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli II, said Friday he would not comment on whether or not Phelps was being investigated by the office. He also would not confirm a grand jury met Friday to consider an indictment.

Isle of Wight Commonwealth’s Attorney Wayne Farmer did not return a phone call.