Lunsford Lawsuit Questions Remain: Was Agreement with Bubba the Love Sponge a Publicity Stunt?
I knew last week there might be trouble in the effort to resolve Mark Lunsford's intent to file a lawsuit against the Citrus County Sheriff.
First, Lunsford's lawyer last Thursday went to the lair of his biggest critic, shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, to announce an agreement. But the lawyer for the sheriff's office wasn't there, and afterwards lawyers for Lunsford and Clem didn't seem to agree on what they'd agreed to.
Clem's lawyer Stephen Diaco said this on air: "We were able to come up with a tentative agreement and that's the big announcement...They're going to iron out an understanding where all sides release each other, the notice is withdrawn, the case is dismissed with prejudice, but with the understanding that Sheriff Dawsy has agreed to sit down with Mark Lunsford...and go over Jessica Lunsford's case with a critical eye."
But when I called Lunsford's lawyer Eric Block after the radio appearance was done, he said this: "It’s nothing new here. We said from day one, that if the sheriff (Jeff Dawsy) admitted he made mistakes, there won’t be a lawsuit. If you take his words to mean that we have settled and agreed to do anything, then that’s inaccurate."
But if there was nothing new here, why did both lawyers go on the radio and say there had been a agreement, however tentative?
I spent 12 hours working this story last week, shuttling back and forth between Diaco and Block, sometimes on the same conference call, trying to understand why they were insisting that a deal was imminent when they also admitted they hadn't resolved the biggest question.
Namely, Block insists the sheriff admit someone made a mistake while investigating the 2005 disappearance of Lunsford's mudered 9-year-old daughter Jessica before he will withdraw his notice to file a lawsuit. But the sheriff insists the notice be withdrawn before he will sit down with Lunsford (no one who knows this case really expects Dawsy to admit he or his office made any mistakes). And because Clem decided to insert himself into this soap opera by repeatedly attacking Lunsford on his show, now he's become part of this sad display.
Last week, Clem promsed to "crank it up so f***ing hard" against Lunsford if the deal fell through,insisting "Mr. Block said X on my show and then got out of my studio and said Y....maybe he bamboozled me."
Clem is on vacation this week, and was hoping to wrap up the Lunsford agreement before he left. That might explain why Clem and Lunsford's lawyers went on the air last Thursday, when the attorney for the sheriff's office was out of the country on his own vacation. (Curiously, when I begged public relations people from the sheriff's office to call their lawyer on his cellphone and verify that this tentative agreement was valid, they refused. So I was never able to determine whether he cut a deal the sheriff's office wasn't aware of.)
Clem's also worried about overexposure in the media. The lawsuit filed by his rival MJ came out of the blue, garnering more headlines, and Clem is smart enough to know that the public will soon tire of seeing his name attached to bizarre media food fights, if he doesn't resolve some of them.
So big question left: What will Bubba say on air, now that a resolution of this lawsuit seems unlikely? And do Lunsford's lawyers really have the gumption to pursue a lawsuit against Dawsy's office and Clem's Cox Radio employers at the same time?