Sunday, May 27, 2018
News Roundup

Battle over radio shock jock legal fees heats up

TAMPA — The multimillion-dollar civil defamation trial pitting two radio shock jocks against each other wrapped up months ago. But the battle over attorney fees is just beginning.

After DJ Todd "MJ" Schnitt and his wife lost a lawsuit against Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, the couple fired their attorneys and said they were done handing over cash — especially after their lead attorney, C. Philip Campbell, was arrested on a DUI charge during the January trial.

The Schnitts already had paid Campbell's firm — Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick — about $1 million. They refused to pay a bill for an additional million.

First the law firm came after the Schnitts in an attempt to get the rest of the money. Then the Schnitts asserted legal malpractice and sued to get back the money they already paid.

Now it is up to a judge to determine how the disagreement will proceed. Quibbling over procedure at a hearing Monday gave the impression this could be as long and acrimonious as the original defamation suit.

The Schnitts want a public case, heard in front of a jury. Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick want it to go to arbitration, which would be private. There, a panel of lawyers would decide if the Schnitts owe the firm.

According to the law firm, the Schnitts don't have a choice. The couple reviewed an "arbitration clause," which said any disagreements with the law firm would go directly to arbitration. The Schnitts' attorney, Wil Florin, said the couple never received such a clause.

Circuit Judge Charles Bergmann will make the final decision, scheduled for September.

Also heating up Monday was a public relations battle.

Clem's attorneys at Adams & Diaco issued a news release saying there is no evidence that Adams & Diaco had set up Campbell for the DUI arrest.

State prosecutors have been investigating allegations that Adams & Diaco sent a female paralegal to Malio's Prime Steakhouse during the January trial to buy drinks for Campbell. They left together, with Campbell driving her car. He was pulled over blocks away by a Tampa police sergeant who had been tipped off by a lawyer at Adams & Diaco.

In Monday's statement, firm partner Stephen Diaco said information provided by a Malio's valet and the paralegal, Melissa Personius, shows there was no setup. The firm released a transcript of valet Joshua Moore's statement, given in February.

Moore states that he saw a young brunette with Campbell at Malio's on Jan. 23. The woman — Personius — arrived alone in a car (even though her license had been suspended). A few hours later, the pair walked out together.

Campbell asked the valet if Personius' car could be left overnight, Moore said.

It could, the valet replied.

Moore says he heard Campbell explain that to Personius, but she said she needed "access" to her car.

The valet did not hear anything else until later, when he told the pair that he needed to at least move the vehicle.

Campbell told the valet that it was fine to leave the car overnight, but according to the valet, Personius once again said she needed her car.

Campbell paid the valet and opened the passenger side door for Personius. The valet says he never heard the paralegal ask Campbell to drive.

Times staff writer Sue Carlton and news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Comments
Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

THE BASEBALL LABORATORY IN ST. PETERSBURG — Up is down. Down is up. Hello is goodbye. Goodbye is hello. A reliever is a starter. A starter is a reliever.These are your 2018 Tampa Bay Rays.You never know what's going to happen. And just when you...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have had to get creative in how they start games. Now, after Friday's trade of closer Alex Colome, they might have to get creative in how they finish them.How they handle the ninth inning going forward will be a fluid ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who was trying to resurrect his career with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, said Saturday that he is retiring from football.Freeman, 30, was a first-round draft pick of the Bucs in 2009 and was their starting ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Her husband wouldn't apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

Her husband wouldn't apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

RIVERVIEW — A Riverview woman shot and killed her husband Saturday because he punched her father and wouldn’t say sorry, the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office said. Sabrina Michelle Hendley, 40, faces a first-degree murder charge in th...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Interesting decision by the Rays to start RH reliever Ryne Stanek on Saturday. The Orioles' Nos. 1 through 5 hitters were righties, and Stanek came in allowing a 1.228 OPS against righties and a .592 OPS against lefties. It ended up working.How ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Hernando officials seize 36 neglected dogs from sanctuary

Hernando officials seize 36 neglected dogs from sanctuary

WEEKI WACHEE — A woman who runs an animal sanctuary will face dozens of animal cruelty charges after Hernando County animal enforcement officers said they found dogs, equine, pigs, cats and chickens housed in poor conditions on her property.Animal of...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Police investigating shooting outside nightclub

ST. PETERSBURG — Police are investigating a fatal shooting that occurred outside a south St. Petersburg nightclub early Saturday morning.Brennan-Aire D. Williams, 28, was pronounced dead shortly after arriving by cab at Bayfront Health. Police invest...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

What in the name of the 0-26 Bucs is going on here?The breathtaking Vegas Golden Knights are the greatest expansion team in professional sports history. They are the best (or worst) thing to ever happen to our games, having won 51 times during the re...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Woman dies in Plant City after SUV flips off road

PLANT CITY — A Seffner woman died Saturday from injuries sustained when her sports utility vehicle flipped off the road and crashed into a fence near the intersection of Tanner Road and State Road 574.Amanda K. Cepeda-Duque, 21, was traveling west on...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Updated: 11 hours ago