IOW Commonwealth’s Attorney will no longer use Phelps’ testimony

Published 10:08 am Saturday, August 20, 2011

ISLE OF WIGHT—Isle of Wight County Commonwealth’s Attorney Wayne Farmer will no longer use testimony from the sheriff’s lead investigator when prosecuting criminal suspects.

Farmer outlined concerns he had concerning the credibility of testimony from Capt. Paul Phelps in an Aug. 1 letter to Sheriff Charlie Phelps.

Paul Phelps, who is the sheriff’s son, has been charged with conspiracy to commit a felony for allegedly knowing that a felon was in possession of a weapon, in this case a stun gun. Sheriff Phelps had previously put Paul Phelps on limited administrative duties and he was only allowed to respond to calls if no other supervisors were available.

Farmer’s main concern stems from the recent search of a home in Smithfield and the arrest of James Fore, who is charged with marijuana possession.

Farmer declined to comment on the letter, which was obtained by Jon Babineau, Fore’s attorney.

In the letter, Farmer questioned Paul Phelps’ involvement in the recent search given his limited administrative duties. He questioned some of the comments made by the captain after the search per his involvement and also questioned why investigators failed to interview witnesses at the scene.

“Quite frankly, Captain Phelps’ explanation is not credible,” Farmer wrote. “As you well know, I am ethically prohibited from calling any witness if I believe their anticipated testimony to be untrue. Because I believe that Captain Phelps had made statements that are verifiably untrue, because he has provided a written statement to me that I believe to be untrue and because I believe that he would repeat these statements if called to testify, I will no longer call Captain Phelps as a witness on behalf of the Commonwealth in this matter.

“Further, because of ongoing concerns regarding his veracity, I will not call him as a witness for the Commonwealth in any future matters.”

Sheriff Phelps said that the captain has been placed on paid administrative leave until the issue is sorted out; however, the sheriff does believe Farmer’s move is politically motivated. The sheriff believes the letter is a ploy to help get a friend of Farmer’s elected sheriff, although he would not say who he believes is the candidate in question.

“Farmer’s statement that he won’t allow Captain Phelps to testify in any cases is out of line,” the sheriff said. “There is no reason at this time to terminate this deputy. While he’s been accused of some serious charges he has not had his day in court.

“When and if I am shown the proof of those accusations I will take proper action at that time. In the meantime Mr. Farmer should stop trying to use his position as Commonwealth’s Attorney to slander Captain Phelps or me in order to get his buddy elected sheriff.”