Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Alexis Plunkett often visited one of her clients, an admitted gang member with a history of felony convictions, late at night inside the Clark County Detention Center.
After investigators became suspicious of “unusual legal contact visiting activity,” they set up a hidden surveillance camera inside a visitation room, according to a recently unsealed Metropolitan Police Department detective’s report.
During at least three jailhouse visits, Plunkett kissed 26-year-old Andrew Arevalo on the lips, locked for three to five seconds, detective Aaron Stanton wrote.
Now Plunkett, 36, is facing a dozen felony charges, accused of providing her cellphone to Arevalo and another man during many of more than two dozen visits earlier this year.
Plunkett called the report “bull- – – -.” She told the Las Vegas Review-Journal she has known Arevalo for several years, and “I’m not doing anything illegal or unethical.” She declined to elaborate on the extent of her relationship with the inmate.
According to the Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct, “a lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed between them when the client-lawyer relationship commenced.”
Defense lawyers often bring phones into the jail, signing documentation that states they will use the phones for purposes related to the case on which they are working.
“They’ve been witch hunting me for over three years,” Plunkett said Wednesday. “They need to look at how they treat their own inmates, not how I treat the inmates.”
Arevalo, a documented member of the Surenos gang who goes by the nickname “Silent” and has felony convictions dating back to 2009, was shot in the face during a 2014 shooting at High Desert State Prison that left another man dead. He was charged with murder before authorities leveled one count of involuntary manslaughter against a prison officer trainee. With Plunkett as his attorney, Arevalo sued the Nevada Department of Corrections and others, including the former director of prisons.
“I look at inmates as more than dogs, and they don’t,” she said. “They want to tear me down and ruin my career. They moved on from him to me.”
Earlier this year, Arevalo was arrested after police found him with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson, a .22-caliber Intratec, body armor, oversized T-shirts and 23.7 grams of methamphetamine. He had been driving a 2004 Chevy Avalanche owned by Rogelio Estrada, whom Plunkett also represented. Investigators said Plunkett also provided her cellphone to Estrada while he was at the jail.
A month later, when Arevalo applied for house arrest, he listed a permanent address that matched Plunkett’s.
He was indicted in late March on charges of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and drug trafficking. He was arrested at his mother’s house, where officers found him on the front porch with Plunkett drinking beer.
On March 22, inside Arevalo’s cell, an officer found an envelope. It was addressed to Plunkett. Etched on the front, along with a female face and a heart, were the words: “I always thinking of you Alexis” (sic).
Plunkett often visited Arevalo at the jail, where he is being held on $200,000 bail, after 7:30 p.m., sometimes staying until nearly 11 p.m., according to Stanton’s log.
They sat across a round table in the south tower visitation area, Arevalo in jail fatigues and belly chains, Plunkett carrying a purse, a binder and a white iPhone.
“Plunkett and Arevalo lean over the table and kiss on the lips for approximately three seconds,” Stanton wrote of a late-night April 23 visit. “They stop kissing and Plunkett sits back before going back for another kiss on the lips for another approximately five seconds. Plunkett then sits back down and pushes the call button to end the visit.”
Plunkett gave the inmate Altoid mints, bites of her Snickers bar and her lip balm, Stanton wrote. “On several of the visits, Plunkett is seen applying make-up to her face.”
The lawyer would hold her phone up for Arevalo to read text messages, sometimes letting him scroll through the phone. During other visits, in calls traced to Arevalo’s family, Plunkett would place the phone on speaker and lay it the table, the detective wrote. At times, Plunkett “seems disinterested” in the conversation “and fiddles with different items in her possession.”
When Stanton approached Plunkett about her visits with Arevalo, he asked whether she made “social calls” with the inmate. The lawyer told the detective she was calling bondsmen.
“Is he in there making phone calls talking to his homies and stuff? No, 100 percent, no,” Plunkett said.
Plunkett’s lawyer, Robert Langford, said he has not received any evidence outside the report, nor has he seen any documentation that supports Stanton’s allegation that the calls were being made to Arevalo’s friends and family.
In September 2015, Arevalo was found guilty during a prison disciplinary hearing of conspiring with his girlfriend and a prison guard to smuggle a half ounce of meth into the prison.
Three months later, during a visit inside a Nevada prison, Arevalo was caught on surveillance fondling Plunkett’s breasts, a prison lieutenant reported at the time, and “each time Ms. Plunkett does not resist or attempt to move away.”
Corrections officers immediately halted the visit, shackled Arevalo and confronted Plunkett.
“I informed Ms. Plunkett as to why the visit was terminated, and initially she denied anything happening,” Lt. Ronald Bryant wrote. “When I explained the incident was recorded on camera, she stated, ‘I’m sorry.’”
Contact David Ferrara at email@example.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.