TAMPA — As accusations of attorney misconduct wind their way through court, one lawyer said Monday he is done pleading the Fifth Amendment.
The promise comes two weeks after a jury ruled in favor of Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, awarding no damages to his radio rival, Todd "MJ" Schnitt.
In a dramatic sideshow to the defamation trial, Schnitt attorney C. Philip Campbell was arrested Jan. 23 and faces a DUI charge after drinking and chatting at Malio's Prime Steakhouse with a woman who didn't disclose she was a paralegal for Adams & Diaco, the law firm representing Clem.
Tampa police pulled over Campbell about 10 p.m. that night, as he drove the paralegal's car near Malio's. Police say they had been sitting on the location after being tipped off by a lawyer at Adams & Diaco.
When police arrested Campbell, he left his trial bag — with confidential information — in the paralegal's car. It was returned the next afternoon.
When Campbell and his firm discovered this, they filed a motion for mistrial and on Jan. 25, called the paralegal and two lawyers from Adams & Diaco to testify. It's possible employees at Adams & Diaco could have gone through the trial bag, Schnitt's attorneys said. They also accused the Adams & Diaco lawyers of setting up the DUI arrest.
While testifying Jan. 25, Stephen Diaco, a partner at the firm, invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify several times and said he had forgotten his cell phone, something the opposing counsel wanted so it could pull phone records.
In a statement released by his lawyer Monday afternoon, Diaco said his attorney is no longer advising him to plead the Fifth to avoid incrimination.
"I look forward to fully cooperating and providing relevant testimony regarding the facts alleged by the Schnitts in support of the motion for a new trial," Diaco said in the statement.
His attorney, Lee Gunn, said Diaco was given short notice about the Jan. 25 hearing.
"Now, he's in the position of being able to understand what people are contending," Gunn said.
Diaco also said he took a lie detector test Friday, which concluded he did not see any documents in Campbell's briefcase.
The Florida Bar opened an investigation last week after getting a complaint about three lawyers at the Adams & Diaco firm: Diaco, Adam Filthaut and Robert Adams.
The bar would not disclose who filed the complaint. Discipline for lawyers found guilty ranges from an admonishment to disbarment.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.