Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer visited her ex-lover in a Santa Clara County jail twice last year and signed in as his lawyer, allowing her to see him more privately and for a longer time than if she were a friend or family member.
Lockyer faced questions from the Bay Area News Group -- which learned about the visits through a public-records request -- when she returned to work Tuesday, more than a month after announcing she was entering rehabilitation for an undisclosed addiction following an purported assault by the former lover in a Newark hotel room.
"His dad asked me to provide pro bono advice. I do it all the time," Lockyer, 40, of Hayward, said Tuesday of the two visits last June to the Elmwood jail in Milpitas.
Lockyer said she was "not involved" with Stephen Chikhani at the time. But Lockyer, who has a law degree but rarely practices law now, acknowledged that she "was not the attorney of record."
Neither Chikhani nor his father could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Jail sign-in logs from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office obtained by the Bay Area News Group through legal demands to the County Counsel's Office show Lockyer visited Elmwood jail on June 15 and June 22, 2011. Chikhani, 35, of San Jose, was serving a 90-day sentence there after violating terms of his probation for a 2010 methamphetamine conviction.
Prompted to identify an agency or organization, Lockyer wrote in "solo" for the first visit and "solo/PD" for the second visit.
Neither she nor her chief of staff responded to an inquiry about exactly what those designations meant, but Lockyer told a reporter that she was there as an attorney.
On Tuesday morning, Lockyer's husband, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, 70, was seen leaving the county administration building as the supervisors began their meeting. Nadia Lockyer later issued a statement:
"I take full responsibility for the personal mistakes I have made and the personal amends I must make; and I deeply apologize to those I love and those who love me. I am glad to be back on my feet, happy to be back at work, and I thank the many friends and colleagues who sent me well wishes and prayers. I'll have more to say after the Attorney General's Office completes their work."
Nadia Lockyer told Newark police that Chikhani had assaulted her in a Newark hotel room on Feb. 3. Because she's a former district attorney's office employee, county prosecutors handed the case off to the state Justice Department, where a spokeswoman said Tuesday that the investigation into the incident isn't yet complete.
Nadia Lockyer reportedly met Chikhani in 2010 while he was in rehabilitation for methamphetamine and she for alcohol. But she has never specified when the affair began and when it ended.
A Dec. 26 text message sent from her cell phone to Chikhani and a friend of Chikhani, however, implies she was intensely involved with him late last year: "THE LAST 3 MONTHS U PUT ME THROUGH HELL N BACK -- N MORE. YOU WILL SEE N FEEL THE PAIN YOUR LIES HAVE INFLICTED IN MY HEART SOUL EVERY MOMENT YOU FIND YOURSELF ALONE OR BORED WITH ANOTHER."
Chikhani was arrested for methamphetamine possession and other crimes again in September. That case is still pending, and he's free on $15,000 bail, with his next court appearance scheduled for Thursday.
Santa Clara County guidelines say inmates are allowed only two 30-minute visits per week from regular visitors. As an attorney, Lockyer was allowed longer visits: The first was 55 minutes, and the second lasted two hours and 35 minutes. To preserve attorney-client confidentiality, attorney visits also are afforded more privacy than regular visits.
Lockyer earned her law degree from Loyola Law School and was admitted to the State Bar of California in December 1997, but she does not practice criminal defense law. The closest she ever came to that was some pro bono work she did more than a decade ago in Orange County on behalf of a wrongly accused young inmate, who finally was released in 2000.
More recently, she worked for the Alameda County District Attorney's office as director of its Family Justice Center, which provides coordinated services to victims of domestic and sexual crimes.
"We can't really say it was appropriate or inappropriate because there are reasonable explanations for what occurred," said attorney Diane Karpman, a Beverly Hills-based specialist in legal malpractice and former State Bar Court referee who writes the California Bar Journal's Ethics Bytes column.
Karpman said it's possible that Lockyer went to the jail to give Chikhani a professional second opinion on how his primary lawyer was doing, or to render other legal advice.
"It may be a little bit questionable," Karpman said, "but it's a gray area because there are alternatives that are acceptable."
Lockyer was elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 2010, her campaign buoyed by more than $1.5 million transferred from her husband's campaign committee. The Lockyers married in 2003, and they have an 8-year-old son.
Josh Richman covers politics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.