September 21, 2017 - 11:10 am
Updated September 21, 2017 - 8:33 pm
Las Vegas defense attorney Alexis Plunkett broke down in tears early Thursday, just seconds after District Judge Michael Villani agreed to dismiss the 14-count indictment against her.
“I’ve never been this happy in my entire life,” she said just outside of the courtroom, covering her mouth as her hands shook in excitement and relief. “I’m overwhelmed. I am incredibly grateful for Judge Villani.”
The indictment, filed in July, charged Plunkett, 36, with improperly providing a cellphone to jail inmates. Plunkett has said she is in a relationship with one of the inmates, 26-year-old Andrew Arevalo, who also was indicted, and that she used the cellphone to make calls regarding bail, which she believed she was authorized to do.
During the hearing Thursday, Plunkett’s lawyers argued the state’s basis for prosecution did not apply to Plunkett’s case. Villani agreed.
According to Nevada statutes, an inmate cannot — without lawful authorization — possess a cellphone. State prosecutor J.P. Raman had argued that, while Plunkett is not a prisoner, it is reasonable to prosecute her as an aider or abettor since she is the reason the inmates ultimately possessed cellphones.
“She cannot qualify for direct liability; she’s an aider and abettor or conspirator,” Raman said.
But Villani agreed with Plunkett’s lawyers that the statute Raman cited doesn’t have any mention or guideline of how to punish an aider or abettor in this instance — just inmates.
“In section four,” Villani said, citing the legislation Raman referred to, “it says, ‘A prisoner who violates this subsection’ has the following penalty. How can I sentence her under section four when she’s not a prisoner?”
At that moment, Plunkett lifted her head and smiled, then turned to look at Raman, who remained silent for several seconds while forming an answer.
State law does explicitly say a person cannot — without lawful authorization — provide a prisoner with a cellphone, but since the inmates in this case were in jail at the Clark County Detention Center, which is not a prison, prosecutors did not cite that statute.
Plunkett’s lawyers also made the case that, if the legislature took the time to specifically punish people who provide prisoners with cellphones, but did not specifically punish people who provide jail inmates with cellphones, then, at its core, “Nevada law does not prohibit and/or punish the crime she is alleged to have committed,” their motion reads.
After dismissing the case, Villani noted prosecutors are welcome to seek different charges.
Just outside the courtroom, Raman said he wasn’t sure if the district attorney’s office would do that. In reference to the judge’s decision, he said, “I think reasonable minds can differ.”
One of Plunkett’s defense attorneys, Adam Solinger, said his team was “feeling great.”
“It’s easy for judges to do what’s popular,” Solinger said. “I think that what (Villani) did today won’t be popular, but it was the right decision under the law.”
Plunkett, still reveling in her victory, again thanked the judge in the courthouse lobby.
“I hope the retaliation against me will stop,” she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Contact Rachel Crosby at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.