Sheriff’s son, Burns indicted in IOW

Published 3:43 pm Monday, May 9, 2011

Isle of Wight Sheriff's Office Capt. Paul Phelps, left, answers questions from reporters Monday after turning himself in on a felony charge of allegedly knowing a convicted felon illegally possessed a weapon. His father, IOW Sheriff C.W. "Charlie" Phelps stands beside him outside the Tidewater Western Regional Jail in Suffolk. -- Dale Liesch | Tidewater News

SUFFOLK—Paul Phelps, a captain with Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office and the son of Sheriff C.W. “Charlie” Phelps, has been indicted for allegedly knowing a convicted felon illegally possessed a weapon.

The felon, Jonathan Burns, was indicted on a charge of possession of a firearm by a felon.

Both made initial appearances before a magistrate at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail on Monday.

The charges are related to a Virginia Attorney General’s investigation of Burns, a four-time convicted felon who volunteered in the sheriff’s office. Married to Paul Phelps’ stepdaughter, Burns apparently wore a uniform and badge, participated in some arrests and carried a Taser, which is a stun gun.

After serving as a volunteer, Burns — who had three counts of arson and larceny filed against him in 1998— was hired in March 2010 in a support capacity but has since been terminated.

Sheriff Phelps told The Tidewater News on Friday he’d never seen Burns with a Taser, but understood that his son and a major in the sheriff’s office had a discussion about the legality of Burns possessing it. Burns was told “to keep his hands off it.”

“It was addressed, it was handled and there was no criminal intent,” the sheriff said Monday outside Western Tidewater Jail. “It was an error and they did what they should have done.”

The sheriff said inventory was among some of Burns’ duties at the department and he could have had access to a Taser, but he maintains Burns never used it. Sheriff Phelps said Burns was present during some arrests, but added that any citizen can request a ride along with the department.

Paul Phelps was released on $10,000 bond. He remains on the job with limited administrative duties and full pay and benefits. He has hired attorney Woody Crook.

Paul Phelps maintained his innocence Monday when questioned by reporters after being released.

“I am innocent,” Paul Phelps said. “I have not done anything they said I did. I just have to have faith in the system.”

Capt. Phelps would not comment further on the situation involving Burns and said he would let it come out in court.

A court date has been set for May 18.