Sunday, September 23, 2018
News Roundup

Sue Carlton: Legal sideshow upstages MJ and Bubba

It is a court case gone way off the tracks, with lawyers lawyering up, witnesses taking the Fifth, and those mouthy radio shock jocks fading into the background.

So what's the most absurd moment so far in this MJ vs. Bubba legal sideshow, besides, well, pretty much the whole thing?

So hard to pick.

Maybe it's Stephen Diaco, the kind of lawyer you could sooner imagine hitting the courthouse without his clothes than his cell phone, and also young Melissa Personius, of a generation for which a cell phone is a must-have accessory — each plumb forgetting their cell phones the day they were called to testify!

And not because there might have been incriminating evidence of calls made the night opposing council, C. Phillip Campbell, got arrested for DUI, either. Or, calls afterward when Personius was left with Campbell's briefcase of trial documents in her car.

No, maybe the most absurd was at the end of Crazy Day in court, after the trial was upended by allegations of lawyerly after-hours sabotage via a sleazy setup at a swanky downtown bar. "It's like a South Park episode," shock jock/defendant Bubba the Love Sponge Clem sniffed to reporters. "And I'm quite frankly getting a little tired of it."

Well, sure. Clearly, Bubba was eager to get back to the more dignified business of slaughtering pigs on the air, giving away breast enhancements and repeatedly calling a rival's wife a "whore."

By now we know the tawdry tale, though there's still much we don't, that started with one radio mouth suing another for being a jerk (and you thought it was in the job description). Best I hoped for early on: Jury says Bubba was indeed less than a gentleman and finds for Todd "MJ" Schnitt, then awards Schnitt a single dollar for this big fat waste of everyone's time.

But then!

In the parlance of the kind of low-rent drama this has become, it's got legs — legs enough to get our town a raise of the eyebrow this week from no less than George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America.

Just before lawyer Campbell got popped midtrial for DUI, turns out this pretty woman showed up at Malio's, bought him drinks and ultimately asked him to drive her car, the allegations went. And the cutie turns out to be a legal assistant with opposing counsel Diaco's firm. And the head DUI cop is big pals with a lawyer in opposing counsel's firm.

Speaking of parlance, I have learned the type of setup alleged here is called a "honey trap," in case I ever want to write an episode of Law & Order meets Cops in Tampa.

Whatever could be next?

Diaco, of the firm that employs the aforementioned alleged bar babe and also of the lawyer with the convenient cop friend, is thus far not the subject of investigation by the Florida Bar, nor are other lawyers involved. This seems surprising, since anyone can initiate a complaint, and you can't swing a cat around here without hitting a lawyer understandably outraged over how this reflects on the profession.

The Bar can start its own investigation, but being more a dignified body than a few members might lead you to believe, they may be waiting for the official courtroom circus to be over before the next begins.

Much more to come. Oh, and in that trial, we'll probably get (yawn) a verdict, too.

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