Mark Lunsford May Not File Lawsuit in a Deal Brokered By Bubba the Love Sponge
For weeks, the two have traded insults, criticisms and threats of litigation: the activist father whose daughter was killed by a pedophile and the shock jock who suspects him of exploiting his child's death.
But this morning, Mark Lunsford and radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem seemed to bury their respective hatchets, as Lunsford's attorneys announced plans, brokered by Clem's lawyers, to sit down with representatives of the Citrus County sheriff's office next week. The hope: that they can negotiate changes to the department's procedure for investigating missing children cases in exchange for dropping plans to sue the sheriff's office over its handling of Lunsford's case.
The plan, announced on Clem's show at 7:50 a.m. this morning, could also end weeks of on air sniping in which the shock jock accused Lunsford of using his 9-year-old daughter Jessica's 2005 rape and murder to build his own personal fame.
"Mark Lunsford has already proven what he's about...all of a sudden he files notice of a lawsuit and he's an awful person?" said Lunsford's attorney, Eric "Rick" Block, who criticized Clem's producers for spreading misinformation about their efforts and not speaking with him directly about facts related to the case. Lunsford was not present in Clem's radio studio this morning, represented instead by his Jacksonville attorneys.
"I don't want to get into Mark Lunsford as a person," said Clem, who agreed to stop insulting Lunsford on air as part of the settlement. "I got 700 emails we can go through talking about what he has done and not done...(but) that would be counter-productive."
The truce seemed in danger of dissolving on air this morning as Lunsford's attorneys insisted on correcting statements Clem and his fans have made about the case, including claims that Lunsford was at a bar drinking on the night convicted sex offender John Couey kidnapped Jessica -- a claim Lunsford's attorneys denied.
Block said Lunsford waited until the last possible to day to file notice with law enforcement of his intent to sue, noting citizens have three years to file such notice or give up their right to bring suit forever. Block said that Lunsford has always maintained he would not file a lawsuit if the Citrus County sheriff would admit they made mistakes in investigating Lunsford's case and help educate other law enforcement agencies on how to handle such cases better.
Lunsford's attorneys also said they have retained the services of noted pathologist Michael Baden, who appeared on HBO's series Autopsy, in an effort to prove that Jessica was alive for days after assailant John Couey kidnapped her -- indicating that a comprehensive police search might have discovered her.
Clem began airing pointed commentary about Lunsford in February, after he revealed plans to sue the Citrus Country Sheriff's Office over its handling of Jessica's case. The conflict came to a head Feb. 27 when Lunsford appeared on Clem's show and the shock jock let go a startling statement: ""You have to wait for your daughter to die before you can start raping money from people — I understand."
Later, Clem aired a slew of parody songs criticizing Lunsford and calls from fans raising questions about his efforts to raise funds for a charitable foundation established in Jessica's name. Lunsford and his attorneys accused Clem of feeding the controversy to build his show's ratings.
This morning, Clem apologized for any insults he may have leveled at Lunsford's attorneys -- though he drew the line on comments he made about Lunsford personally. Clem credited his attorney Steve Diaco with talking to Block last week, developing discussions which let to this agreement.
"Maybe...all of us talking, we can all take a step back," said Clem. "Let's just all agree to disagree. I'm going to shut up, you're not going to file against the sheriff...for a common goal, so this doesn't happen again."