Troubles have been mounting for veteran Las Vegas lawyer David Phillips.
The State Bar of Nevada is investigating seven grievances against him, including one filed by a district judge.
And in an unrelated matter, a Maryland attorney has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Phillips of raping her at a legal conference in 2012. The woman, April Ademiluyi, made a report to Tampa, Fla., police, but no criminal charges were filed.
According to the lawsuit, the civil case “arises out of the diabolical, predatory acts” by Phillips. The document alleges he administered a date rape drug into Ademiluyi’s beverage without her knowledge before engaging in sexual intercourse with her, “knowing that she was too incapacitated to appreciate, understand, or resist the sexual act being committed upon her.”
Phillips was 59 at the time, Ademiluyi was 30, according to the lawsuit.
Ademiluyi has had a Maryland law license since 2008. She said she is self-employed and works part time as outside counsel for a gaming company based in Canada. The Las Vegas Review-Journal typically does not name sexual assault victims, but Ademiluyi has agreed to be identified in this article.
The lawsuit, now pending in Las Vegas, also accuses Phillips of engaging in “persistent, cruel, and criminal acts to corruptly cover up his acts of sexual violence.” Ademiluyi, who is representing herself, seeks at least $10 million in damages.
Phillips said nothing after an Aug. 5 hearing when a Review-Journal reporter asked about the lawsuit and bar grievances.
According to the complaint, Ademiluyi and Phillips attended a National Bar Association conference in Tampa in April 2012. The conference featured several events supporting the association’s then-president, Daryl Parks, and his partner, who were representing the family of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in February 2012 in Sanford, Fla.
Parks and his partner also are representing the family of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., earlier this month.
In court papers, Ademiluyi describes a party in Parks’ hotel room and hospitality suite where Phillips and New York attorney Herbert Moreira-Brown “administered a date rape drug into the beverages of Ms. Ademiluyi and Ms. Jane Doe without their knowledge and consent and Mr. Moreira-Brown engaged in sexual intercourse with Ms. Doe and Mr. Phillips engaged in sexual intercourse with Ms. Ademiluyi.”
The lawsuit said both women filed reports with the Tampa Police Department, which released a redacted report listing Phillips as a suspect in a sex crime investigation but said it could find no report naming Moreira-Brown as a suspect.
The Phillips investigation report, however, quotes a woman who said she was drinking with “Herbert” in his hotel room before feeling drugged.
“She remembered a feeling of force, but could not remember what exactly happened,” according to the police report.
In a telephone interview, Moreira-Brown told the Review-Journal he was unaware of any accusations against him.
“I didn’t have sex with anyone on that trip,” he said, adding that he has never possessed a date rape drug and doesn’t know anyone by the true name for Jane Doe that Ademiluyi provided to the newspaper.
The woman identified by Ademiluyi told the newspaper in a telephone interview that she chose not to pursue criminal charges.
“I just wanted to try to forget about the whole incident,” she said.
The woman said she first met Ademiluyi and the two men at the Tampa conference. She said Ademiluyi later contacted her to discuss what had happened that night.
Moreira-Brown, 59, has faced rape allegations in the past. His 1998 campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from New York was derailed after a different woman accused him of rape, though a grand jury later declined to indict him.
Moreira-Brown said he has known Phillips five or six years and considers him a friend.
“I have known him to be a gentleman,” Moreira-Brown said.
ALLEGED ASSAULT DETAILED
In her lawsuit, Ademiluyi also accuses Phillips of falsely reporting to Las Vegas police that she repeatedly called him with death threats, had damaged his property in Nevada and had falsely reported that he sexually assaulted her.
Phillips last September filed a Justice Court case against Ademiluyi, seeking a protective order, but later withdrew it.
In court papers Ademiluyi said she first met Phillips at a 2011 National Bar Association conference in Baltimore and saw him again at a conference in January 2012.
Three months later in Tampa, “Mr. Phillips poured wine he knew was laced with a date rape drug into a cup for Ms. Ademiluyi and Jane Doe, served them the wine, and insisted they drink the wine,” Ademiluyi wrote.
At about 1:30 a.m. on April 21, 2012, the lawsuit alleges, Phillips and Moreira-Brown took Ademiluyi from the party to Phillips’ hotel room.
“Ms. Ademiluyi recalls waking up the next day naked in Mr. Phillips’ bed with severe vaginal pain and feeling groggy,” according to the document.
That evening, after dining with Phillips and others, “Ms. Ademiluyi returned to Mr. Phillips’ hotel room that night and until the following morning, where he continued to emotionally manipulate her and take advantage of her weakened mental state, in attempt to secure her silence and acceptance of his malicious acts of sexual violence,” the complaint alleges.
Ademiluyi later went to an emergency room in Maryland for treatment of her vaginal pain and described the drinking and memory loss to a nurse who “advised her she was drugged,” according to the lawsuit.
The police report indicates Ademiluyi contacted police April 30, 2012. Ademiluyi in court papers said a laboratory confirmed she had ingested GHB within about 60 days before June 14, 2012. GHB is sometimes used as a date rape drug.
Rita Peters, chief of the sexual offense division at the state attorney’s office in Hillsborough County, Fla., said there wasn’t enough evidence to file charges.
“Normally, when these type of cases are reported we would have medical testimony to either corroborate the sexual act or be able to explain the lack of physical injury,” Peters wrote in a July 31, 2012, email to Ademiluyi. “While your first set of test results certainly show … presence (of GHB), we have no evidence to indicate when the substance entered your system or even how.”
Peters also addressed the issue of consent: “Even though we understand that your level of intoxication that night affected you, your conduct after the incident will most certainly be the highlight of a defense attack regarding your consent. Namely, you returned to his room and slept in his bed the following day.”
Jane Doe proved little assistance.
“What was very troubling to us is that the additional witness could not remember many details absent your prompting during her recorded interview by the detective,” Peters wrote.
Phil Pattee, spokesman for the State Bar of Nevada, said the pending grievances against Phillips are confidential beyond a general description of the allegations, which involve issues such as diligence, communication with clients, attorney fees and safekeeping of property, all unrelated to Ademiluyi’s claims.
Pattee said Ademiluyi did file a grievance against Phillips alleging perjury, but it has been dismissed.
“Her matter was considered and dismissed because at this time it appears to involve allegations of a civil and/or criminal nature, which are best addressed in the appropriate judicial settings,” he said.
Pattee said one pending grievance was filed by District Judge Elissa Cadish, who declined comment when contacted by the Review-Journal.
The State Bar itself filed a grievance related to an allegation that Phillips engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in January 2013, when he was suspended for about a month after failing to complete required continuing education, Pattee said.
All of the grievances will be presented to the bar’s Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board panel, which can dismiss them, issue a proposed letter of reprimand or order a formal disciplinary hearing.
Any matters that are not dismissed will be made public, Pattee said.
Phillips was licensed to practice law in Nevada in 1983 and has tried his hand at politics. He lost a bid for a state Senate seat in 1984. In 1994 he was elected to the Nevada university system’s Board of Regents, serving one term before losing a re-election bid.
State Supreme Court records show that his license was suspended in December 1991 after two clients complained about not receiving money due them. The Supreme Court reinstated his license the following September.
The state bar reprimanded Phillips in 1994 after he entered a conditional plea of guilty to another charge of professional misconduct. The organization found he had failed to communicate properly with a client he represented in an accident claim.
In a 2002 interview while seeking a District Court seat, Phillips said he is vulnerable to such complaints because his clients “want to strike back at the system.”
“I represent poor people. I represent criminals. I represent the people nobody else will touch,” he said.
He lost that election.
The State Bar of Nevada also sent Phillips letters of reprimand involving a variety of matters in 2008, 2009 and 2012.
According to the 2009 letter, “As a mitigating factor, you informed the panel that during the time relevant to the grievances at issue your son had passed away after an extended illness. You explained, and understandably so, that you experienced extreme distress and grief during this time period due to the loss of your son.”
The 2012 letter stemmed from a grievance filed by Pamela Burford, his client in a personal injury case. Phillips was reprimanded for violating rules involving attorney fees and safekeeping of property.
Burford’s case, now with a different lawyer, is pending before Cadish. In April the judge found that Phillips had “intentionally failed to comply” with a 2010 court order.
“The … court expects to refer this matter to the State Bar of Nevada for any action it sees fit,” Cadish’s order reads.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her on Twitter: @CarriGeer.