TAMPA — Weeks after he refused to testify in Hulk Hogan's invasion of privacy trial, radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem — his legal name — took the witness stand Tuesday in a trial that has its roots in derogatory comments he made on his show in 2008.
Back then, in the middle of a radio ratings war with rival DJ Todd "MJ" Schnitt, Clem insulted Schnitt's wife and wished his competitor dead.
"I will not be happy until I have an MJ funeral in the streets in Tampa, Florida," he said.
The Schnitts sued him for defamation, ultimately losing at trial in 2013, but not before they racked up a nearly $2 million legal bill with their attorneys at the Tampa firm of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick. When the couple paid only half of what they owed, the law firm sued them for the remainder. The Schnitts responded with a lawsuit of their own, asserting legal malpractice and arguing that the firm should return the money they had already paid.
Now in its third week, the trial is expected to conclude this week.
Perched on the witness stand Tuesday, Clem directed his scorn not at the Schnitts, but at their former attorney C. Philip Campbell, a man he called "bad," "unethical" and "dirty."
Campbell had represented the Schnitts in their unsuccessful case against Clem and, during the trial, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.
Investigators later concluded that Campbell had been set up by several of Clem's attorneys with the law firm of Adams & Diaco and that they had arranged for one of their paralegals to ply Campbell with drinks and entice him to get behind the wheel of her car.
To ensure he would be caught, they asked a Tampa police officer — a friend of one of the lawyers — to wait outside the bar for Campbell.
One of the lawyers involved, Stephen Diaco, has been disbarred for his role in orchestrating Campbell's arrest, and the fate of the remaining two rests with the Florida Supreme Court.
Taking aim at Campbell, who had been hired by Clear Channel to represent Clem in several cases in the early 2000s, Clem suggested the lawyer was a traitor for agreeing to represent his radio rival Schnitt.
Although a Hillsborough County judge and the Florida Bar reviewed the arrangement and found nothing wrong with it, Clem continued to sound wounded.
"I feel it's one of the most unjust, unethical things that's been done in the 13th Circuit," he said.
Stepping back briefly to reflect on his unusual role in the current trial, Clem marveled at his transition from the Schnitts' enemy to their witness.
"I was the bad guy for the longest time," he said. "Now I'm the pingpong in the middle. I just find that sort of comical."
Contact Anna M. Phillips at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354. Follow @annamphillips.