TAMPA — The case that has become a sideshow of sorts for Tampa Bay's legal community will get some fresh cast members.
Exiting stage right is the lawyer who alleges he was snared in a drunken driving setup, and his law partner. Entering stage left is a man who is no stranger to media attention, with a client list that includes Hulk Hogan.
Radio host Todd "MJ" Schnitt fired his attorneys, C. Phillip Campbell and Jonathan J. Ellis, on Thursday in the midst of his quest for a new defamation trial against radio show rival Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
Instead, lawyer Wil Florin said he will file a motion in court Friday to begin representing Schnitt and his wife, Michelle.
Schnitt did not return calls for comment Thursday.
His decision comes in the midst of a flurry of legal activity in the wake of the first trial, a loss for Schnitt that ended with accusations that Clem's attorneys hatched a DUI setup plot involving a young female paralegal.
J. Todd Timmerman, a managing partner at Campbell's firm of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, released this statement: "We continue to believe in the Schnitts' causes of action and hope that they are ultimately able to bring an end to the attacks on them personally and their personal reputations in this community."
On Jan. 30, jurors found that Clem did not defame the Schnitts with a litany of statements he has made about them over the years.
But the verdict did not put an end to a case already years in the making. A week before the verdict, Campbell was arrested in Tampa on a DUI charge while driving a car that belonged to Melissa Personius, a paralegal for Adams & Diaco, the firm representing Clem.
The Tampa police sergeant who pulled Campbell over had been tipped off by an Adams & Diaco lawyer.
Campbell left his briefcase — which contained confidential papers pertaining to the case — in Personius' car. Attorneys at Adams & Diaco say they did not open the briefcase, and they returned it 18 hours later.
Schnitt's now-former attorneys cited the missing briefcase in their motion for a new trial.