IW sheriff’s son makes deal

Published 10:55 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2011

By Dale Liesch

The Tidewater News

Paul Phelps, a captain with Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office and the son of that county’s outgoing sheriff, C.W. “Charlie” Phelps, pleaded guilty Tuesday to reduced charges in a case that involved allowing a felon to illegally possess a stun gun.

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Paul Phelps, 43, admitted to a misdemeanor charge related to allowing four-time felon Jonathan Burns to wear a uniform and badge while volunteering for the sheriff’s department. During sentencing, Phelps agreed to no longer work in law enforcement in Virginia and to pay a $500 fine.

Phelps apologized to the court before being sentenced by Judge William H. Ledbetter in Isle of Wight Circuit Court.

In a related trial, felony gun possession charges against Burns were dismissed, in part, because he cooperated with Virginia State Police during the investigation, said Assistant Attorney General Patrick Dorgan.

“I’m glad it’s over,” Burns said. “I’m glad the justice system has a little common sense to it.”

Burns, who is married to Paul Phelps’ stepdaughter, said he only did what he was allowed to do as a volunteer with the Sheriff’s Office.

“I only told the truth from the beginning, and I guess it set me free,” Burns said.

Sheriff Phelps said he and his son had discussed the possibility of a plea deal.

“We knew he had a reason to plead guilty to this and not be convicted of a felony,” Sheriff Phelps said. “He’ll be able to get on with his life.”

Sheriff Phelps was disappointed the charges against Burns were dismissed.

“I am disappointed that everyone who was involved in this is not being held accountable for it,” he said.

The Virginia Attorney General’s office in May filed felony charges against Paul Phelps.

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. He has since been terminated.