Shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge rails against federal investigation and Tampa Bay Times coverage of his lawyer, Stephen Diaco
Tampa shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem responded to news that federal authorities were investigating his friend and attorney Stephen Diaco in typical form, spending much of his show this morning excoriating Tampa Bay Times writer/columnist Sue Carlton and alleging the coverage was the result of a conspiracy among the city’s power elite.
Carlton co-authored a story on May 23 reporting that FBI agents seized cellphones from Diaco and a Tampa police sergeant in connection with allegations that the lawyer’s firm set-up opposing counsel for a DUI arrest midway through a high profile trial.
Diaco’s firm was defending Clem in a defamation lawsuit brought by rival radio personality Todd “MJ” Schnitt. When opposing lawyer C. Philip Campbell was arrested for DUI after driving the car of a woman who turned out to be a paralegal at Diaco’s firm – Campbell said she lied about where she worked as they drank together that night – allegations flew that the arrest had been arranged.
Carlton also co-authored a story Thursday noting that Diaco’s law firm had been accused of sending a paralegal to discredit a witness in a case three years ago in Miami. Diaco denied the allegations and the Florida bar concluded it was a matter for a civil court, if the witness chose to file a lawsuit.
But despite lots of bluster, Clem offered no concrete proof this morning of allegations that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and local attorney John Fitzgibbons, a former federal prosecutor-turned criminal attorney, had used their influence to get a federal investigation started into the case and spark Carlton’s stories.
(Clem said Fitzgibbons was Schnitt's attorney, but the lawyer represents Campbell; Tampa attorney Wil Florin is representing Schnitt in a lawsuit against Campbell's firm.)
Throughout his presentation, which took up much of the middle section of his show, Clem repeatedly invoked the phrase “in my opinion,” offering little proof beyond circumstantial allegations of friendship and power brokering. (The shock jock’s primary defense in the defmation lawsuit was that his attacks against Schnitt and his wife were only his opinions and theater of the mind-style radio bluster, even when making allegations of corruption and collusion.)
“MJ cannot take the fact that I beat him fair and square,” said Clem, who eventually saw a jury rule that he did not defame Schnitt or his wife, the culmination of a five-year legal proceeding which eventually drew natonal headlines. (the two eventually agreed in March to a settlement preventing Schnitt from seeking a retrial)
Talk about the case on air has proven a boon for Clem, who saw his ratings skyrocket when the lawsuit was at trial, as fans rallied to his defense. This morning’s outburst seemed another attempt to enlist support from his fans – known as the Bubba Army – in the wake of recent bad press about the federal investigation.
In a statement released Monday, Diaco accused Campbell’s law firm Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick of trying to “put words” into the mouth of a parking valet at the restaurant where Campbell had been drinking, drafting a statement in which the worker said paralegal Melissa Personius “prevailed upon” Campbell to drive her car.
The valet corrected his statement to say he didn’t see Personius do such a thing, Diaco’s release said. But a transcript of the valet’s testimony released by Diaco’s firm also shows the worker heard Personius tell Campbell she needed “access” to her car when told it could be left at the restaurant overnight, according to a story Monday in the Tampa Bay Times.
Schnitt is suing Campbell’s firm over $2-million in legal fees, alleging the attorneys overstated the case against Clem and Campbell himself had promised not to drink during the trial, given he had a previous DUI arrest.
By midmorning, Schnitt had released his own breaking news by Twitter: "ALERT: Attorney Wil Florin will join me live at 5:06 ET to discuss suit against Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick for legal malpractice."
Seems that, no matter how all these investigations and lawsuits work out, at least some people will get a few good radio segments out of it.