LITTLE ROCK — A federal appeals panel Wednesday ordered a new hearing in the case of an Arkansas man who argued on appeal that his lawyer had a conflict of interest in representing both him and his girlfriend in a drug case.
The panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis reversed a district judge’s decision to reject a claim of ineffective counsel by Terry Gale Plunk, who was sentenced to 72 years in prison on multiple felony convictions, including two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
Plunk and his girlfriend, Deborah Devries, pleaded guilty after their attorney reached a negotiated plea deal with prosecutors.
In a 17-page ruling written by Judge Lavenski Smith of Little Rock, the appeal’s panel said the district judge erred “in finding that ‘negotiations (of a package plea deal) did not adversely affect (Plunk’s) defense.”
The judges ordered a new evidentiary hearing on Plunk’s ineffective counsel argument.
The ruling also said that the district court failed to address whether Plunk waived the right to effective counsel in hiring the attorney to represent Devries and himself.
Plunk was arrested in 2006 after leading officers on a high-speed chase from Boone County in northern Arkansas to Branson, Mo. Officers had had Plunk under surveillance after receiving information he might have a sizable amount of methamphetamine in his car.
After the chase across state lines, Plunk’s vehicle was searched and officers found firearms, electronic scales, a scanner, empty plastic storage bags, drug paraphernalia and ledger sheets. Officers also found 579 grams of methamphetamine in the vehicle.
Devries, a passenger in the car, had three grams of methamphetamine in her purse.
Plunk was arrested on one count each of possession of meth with intent to deliver, simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, being a felon in possession of a firearm, fleeing in a vehicle, three counts of criminal mischief, possession of drug paraphernalia, aggravated assault and possession of marijuana.
Devries was charged with possession of meth with intent to distribute, simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, hindering apprehension or prosecution , possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a narcotic drug.
While out on bail, Plunk was arrested again and charged with attempt to deliver meth to an undercover police officer. About 34.4 grams of meth was found in his socks and 338.9 grams of meth and drug paraphernalia also were found in his possession.
Plunk was charged with criminal attempt to commit capital murder, possession of meth with intent to deliver, attempt to deliver meth and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Devries, who had been released on bond, was later arrested after deputies found she had allegedly tried to smuggle a prescription anti-anxiety medicine to Plunk while in jail. She was charged with furnishing prohibited articles and unlawful use of a communication device.
The couple’s attorney, Phillip Moon, later reached a plea deal with the prosecution.
Plunk pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of meth with intent to deliver, aggravated assault, fleeing in a vehicle, three counts of criminal mischief, possession of drug paraphernalia, felon in possession of a firearm and possession of marijuana.
Devries pleaded guilty to possession of meth with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia. She was sentenced to 120 days in prison and 10 years probation.