When Lex got mixed up in the shooting death of Jude Royce, Detective Phelan made certain that Lex's name did not appear on any of the reports.
When Detective Phelan witnessed Clark Kent saving a homeless man from a runaway bus, he was able to blackmail Clark into committing crimes for him. First, he asked Clark to steal some incriminating files from the Department of Internal Affairs. Clark tried to turn the tables on him by calling the cops and leaving him alone at the scene- after throwing the vault containing the files onto Sam's car, so Sam framed Jonathan Kent for the murder of Matthew Martin.
Sam promised to make the evidence against Jonathan go away if Clark helped him steal a ten million dollar artifact- the jewel-encrusted breastplate of Alexander the Great- from the Metropolis Museum. Clark managed to turn the tables on him again, calling the police and throwing the breastplate out of the window just as they arrived; since the plate only had Sam's fingerprints on it, he would have difficulty explaining his actions. Although Sam attempted to shoot Clark, Clark was able to dodge the bullets and escape the scene. Sam was fatally wounded in the shoot-out with the museum guards that followed Clark's departure. When Lex demanded to know what information he used to blackmail Clark, his final words were "Go to Hell, Luthor", protecting Clark's secret from Lex, whom he hated.
A short story in Smallville #4 takes place months after this episode. The story has Clark recalling an unseen moment before Sam's and his arrival to Metropolis. Clark asks Phelan why a cop such as himself would no longer want to help people, with Phelan responding that maybe he still does (just not by anyone else's rules).
Afterward, Clark spots a car wreck and Phelan insists on continuing with their job (though Clark persuades Phelan to let him attend to the victim). Clark pulls the car out of the water and Phelan saves one of the passengers through CPR. They manage to flee before the medics arrive. Clark then sees a glimmer of decency that Phelan might have had.
- Phelan was the first antagonist that Clark confronted that had absolutely no powers whatsoever. Prior contact with Lionel Luthor only saw Clark going up against Lionel indirectly without actually being threatened by him, and even Harry Volk - the only "freak of the week" Clark had fought whose mutation did not grant him an offensive power that would have allowed him to hurt Clark - was regressed to a younger age by his kryptonite exposure.
- Sam Phelan received a passing mention in DC Universe Online.