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  • The Detroit Free Press

    Pilot, ex-Macomb Co. teacher pleads no contest for inappropriately touching teen

    By Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press,


    A pilot and former Macomb County teacher accused of inappropriately touching a teenager pleaded no contest in Macomb County Circuit Court, nearly three months after being sentenced to federal prison for similar allegations.

    Rex Phelps, 73, of Harrison Township, pleaded no contest Monday to one count of children-accosting for immoral purposes, a felony, and two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct (involving a victim between 13 and 15), high court misdemeanors, according to Circuit Court records.

    Sentencing is set for July 24.

    Phelps was accused of inappropriately touching the victim in the hangar at Ray Community Airport in 2022-23.

    "Mr. Phelps has accepted responsibility at all levels, including (Monday) in Court and with the police when he was first arrested," his attorney, Samuel Bennett, stated in an email Wednesday to the Free Press. "He is remorseful for his actions, and he will participate in programs while incarcerated. Overall, Mr. Phelps is ashamed and embarrassed by his actions, especially considering his stellar background as a school teacher for 40+ years without issue."

    Phelps is being held at FCI Elkton in Ohio after being sentenced in March to two years in federal prison, the maximum time he faced, in U.S. District Court.

    In that case, federal prosecutors stated he inappropriately touched a 15-year-old girl while teaching her to fly. He pleaded guilty in October to abusive sexual contact of a child. He also was sentenced to five years of supervised release, according to federal court records.

    Phelps was accused of grooming and inappropriately touching the girl on several occasions and exchanging text messages, including one with a picture of a man and a woman lying on a bed kissing. He commented on the picture "Shortly after the shower … without that top. Maybe more," the U.S. Attorney's Office stated in a release in March.

    Phelps mistakenly sent this text message exchange to an unintended recipient, who contacted police, according to the release.

    The federal crime occurred between Jan. 16 and Feb. 8, 2023, according to the plea agreement. It stated Phelps and the girl flew in his aircraft, taking off and landing at an airport in Macomb County. He was the president of an experimental aviation club and she was learning to fly airplanes. He touched her inner thigh over her clothes while they were aboard the aircraft, according to the plea agreement.

    A sentencing memorandum in federal court filed by Bennett stated that Phelps met the girl at an aviation event at Ray Community Airport. He admitted getting too close, it stated, which led to a few circumstances where he inappropriately touched her, including on a flight when he touched her thigh and she felt uncomfortable.

    Per the memorandum, Phelps was a former Chippewa Valley schoolteacher and coach.

    In the plea agreement, federal prosecutors asked that Phelps' sentence run concurrently with any sentence he receives in the Macomb County Circuit Court case.

    Contact Christina Hall: Follow her on X, formerly Twitter: @challreporter.

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    This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Pilot, ex-Macomb Co. teacher pleads no contest for inappropriately touching teen

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