Deputy-felon cases in question

Published 10:33 pm Friday, May 28, 2010

ISLE OF WIGHT — A case involving an assault on a police officer was dismissed in Isle of Wight County Circuit Court this week because a felon working for the sheriff’s department was involved with the arrest.

Eight other cases face the possibility of being dismissed, said Isle of Wight Commonwealth’s Attorney Wayne Farmer.

There may be motions to reopen other trials.

Farmer recently learned that four-time convicted felon Jonathon Burns was working for the sheriff’s department. Burns had initially been on the auxiliary force as an unpaid volunteer, but he was hired in March by Isle of Wight Sheriff C.W. “Charlie” Phelps.

Burns was convicted of arson and grand larceny in 1998.

Farmer said he asked Phelps to send him a description of Burns’ duties, and after looking over police reports, files and Burns’s Facebook page, it became clear to him that Burns was performing duties outside of what the law allowed, including carrying a Taser and wearing a uniform and badge.

Convicted felons cannot carry firearms or Tasers and cannot collect evidence or testimony.

“I really didn’t believe it at first, that they would have a convicted felon serving in a law enforcement capacity,” Farmer said.

Farmer said Phelps was aware of Burns’ conviction.

“This was not just a slip through the cracks,” Farmer said.

Phelps did not return a phone call.

Burns has since been terminated and the sheriff’s department is conducting an investigation.

Farmer said the next step would be to involve Virginia State Police.