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Judge in Bubba-Schnitt case wants answers in alleged DUI setup

TAMPA — Bubba the Love Sponge Clem's attorneys want the drama to be done, but the judge wants answers.

Both sides need to cooperate in an investigation about what happened at Malio's Prime Steakhouse on Jan. 23, or Circuit Judge James Arnold said he'd set aside a week to hash it out in court.

"I want to know what happened," the judge said at Friday's status conference.

It all stems from accusations that arose during a civil defamation trial that pitted radio host Todd "MJ" Schnitt and his wife against Clem. In January, a jury denied all counts and awarded the Schnitts nothing.

But the allegations of a DUI setup remain.

According to Schnitt's former attorneys, which the couple have since fired, lawyers representing Clem set up one of Schnitt's attorneys for a DUI arrest mid-trial.

That attorney, C. Philip Campbell Jr., had drinks at Malio's on Jan. 23 with a woman who did not disclose that she was a paralegal for Adams & Diaco, the firm representing Clem.

Campbell later drove her car, but was pulled over a few blocks from Malio's by Tampa police, who had been waiting thanks to a tip from a lawyer at Adams & Diaco.

On Friday, Clem's attorneys said there is nothing wrong with a citizen giving a tip to police — and that Campbell drove on his own accord.

The Schnitts' new attorney, Wil Florin, said he wants to question at least four to five "key players." He also wants surveillance video, which recorded the valet area outside Malio's, as well as drink receipts from Jan. 23.

All that investigating will be expensive, Clem's attorney George Vaka said. He filed a motion Friday, asking the judge to order both sides to mediation.

"To see if we can get this entire matter resolved," Vaka said.

Lee Gunn, an attorney representing Adams & Diaco, said his clients have already been cooperating with the investigation. He pointed to signed affidavits from attorney Stephen Diaco and the paralegal, Melissa Personius, which were filed Monday.

In the affidavits, Diaco said he had no idea Campbell would be going to Malio's that night. He said he never asked Personius to lie about where she worked or ask Campbell to drive her car.

Personius wrote that she went to Malio's on her own accord and that Campbell bought her drinks and that he insisted on driving.

Still, the affidavits do not address many of the questions initially raised. As Schnitt's attorney, Florin, started to address that, the judge cut him off.

"The affidavits are lacking a lot," Arnold said. "There's too many unanswered questions."

Both sides agreed to mediation, which will be held next week.

Florin also is expected to file a list of people he plans to question.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Judge in Bubba-Schnitt case wants answers in alleged DUI setup 03/08/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 8, 2013 10:42pm]
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