Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

Last two lawyers disbarred in Diaco DUI setup

TAMPA — Calling it "among the most shocking, unethical and unprofessional" conduct they had ever witnessed by lawyers, the justices of the Florida Supreme Court made it both official and unanimous Thursday:

All three Tampa attorneys who set up opposing counsel for a DUI arrest during a bare-knuckles trial in 2013 can never be lawyers in this state again.

Though they hoped for a sentence short of forever, Robert Adams, 47, and Adam Filthaut, 42, are now permanently disbarred. Stephen Diaco, 47, was banned from practicing law for life in January.

It was a tawdry, improbable tale with a plot straight out of a Grisham novel. Radio personality Todd "MJ" Schnitt was suing shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem for defamation in what had become a courtroom cage match.

One night after trial, a young paralegal for the Adams & Diaco firm representing Clem spotted Schnitt's lawyer, C. Philip Campbell, at the downtown Malio's Steakhouse bar with his co-counsel. She called her bosses. As the night wore on, she exchanged dozens of texts and calls with them — and they with each other — as she slid on a bar stool next to Campbell, flirted, bought drinks and drank with him.

Meanwhile, Filthaut, another Adams & Diaco lawyer, was phoning a close family friend: a Tampa police DUI sergeant who set up a stakeout for Campbell. According to an investigation, Campbell intended to walk the few blocks home to his downtown apartment, but the paralegal persuaded him to drive her in her car. Sgt. Ray Fernandez pulled him over a few blocks away. Campbell, now 68, was charged with DUI and taken to jail.

Diaco told reporters the next day: "The whole thing makes me ashamed to be an attorney."

But the story quickly unraveled with the revelation of all those phone calls and texts. Assigned to Campbell's DUI case, Pinellas prosecutors dropped the charge and issued a thick and damning report describing an "undercover" paralegal and detailing a setup. The report concluded that while Adams & Diaco lawyers insisted they were getting a drunken driver off the streets, they instead put considerable "time, effort and subterfuge" into getting him on the streets.

Neither Adams nor his attorney returned a reporter's calls for comment Thursday. Filthaut's lawyer, Mark O'Brien, said in an email: "Adam is disappointed but he has moved forward with his life. We will take no further legal action on his behalf."

Campbell's attorney, John Fitzgibbons, said what the Supreme Court wrote was "simply blistering and condemned in no uncertain terms the conduct of three crooked lawyers."

"Diaco, Adams and Filthaut are totally finished as lawyers," Fitzgibbons said. "And deservedly so."

The Supreme Court noted that the lawyers seemed to consider any harm done — whether to Campbell, a fellow attorney, to Sgt. Fernandez, who was fired, and to public confidence in the legal profession — "simply collateral damage."

Their actions "constituted a deliberate and malicious effort to place a heavy finger on the scales of justice for the sole benefit of themselves and their client," the opinion said.

A Florida Bar referee assigned to the matter found the lawyers' lack of remorse "stunning."

Tampa lawyer Scott Tozian, who handles disciplinary cases against lawyers and judges, said it is highly unlikely this disbarment decision could be appealed.

"They left not even a glimmer of hope in the way that opinion is written," Tozian said. "It would be a waste of time."

Times senior researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Sue Carlton at [email protected]

Comments
Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG — With all that's been said, tweeted, ranted and written on these pages and elsewhere about the Rays' odd, unorthodox, weird and some days downright wacky pitching plan, this might be the craziest thing yet:It's working.Like, rea...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

There are many unanswered questions and discrepancies about the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that has led to his upcoming three-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy.The Bucs won't ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

A t his introductory news conference after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucs in 2015, Jameis Winston said to judge him on his actions moving forward."Actions speak so much louder than words, or what they may have read or what they may have hear...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Strangers are coming together to honor two killed in Bayshore crash

TAMPA — John Reisinger has seen miracles since his niece and 21-month-old grand-niece were killed while trying to cross Bayshore Boulevard 30 days ago. Some, he says, are too painful to talk about. Others he’s still trying to make sense of, such as h...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

ST. PETERSBURG — The key to SS Willy Adames rapping two of the biggest hits in the Rays' 4-0 win Saturday actually took place the night before.An RBI single that snapped an 0-for-12 and a second hit two winnings later in Friday's game restored ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

INF Daniel Robertson has only played two games after a short DL stint, but it seems like he has already made a half dozen great plays. Willy Adames and Jake Bauers get the attention, but Robertson has the skills to steal the show any night.It is obvi...
Updated: 9 hours ago