Thursday, December 14, 2017
Public safety

Police release video of DUI arrest of attorney in Bubba, MJ trial

TAMPA — Lawyer C. Philip Campbell obliges the DUI officer at first.

He follows the officer's fingertip with his eyes. He says he'll do a field sobriety test.

When the officer asks if anything will affect Campbell's balance, the 64-year-old attorney says he's old and takes blood pressure and cholesterol medications.

"I'm just saying, I'm wobbly," he says. He also explains that he has trouble pronouncing his "m's" and "n's," in case he's asked to do the alphabet test.

They never get that far. About seven minutes in, Campbell changes his mind.

"Okay, sir. Well, just letting you know that your refusal to do the exercises will be used against you in a court of law," Tampa police Officer Tim McGinnis says. "I am going to have to base my decision totally on what I've seen so far … I'm going to place you under arrest for DUI, sir."

"Oh, my Lord," Campbell says before being handcuffed.

Tampa police on Wednesday released the dash camera video of Campbell's DUI arrest on Jan. 23.

Campbell was arrested at night, during the nearly three-week-long civil defamation trial that pitted Todd "MJ" Schnitt against his radio rival, Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.

The events surrounding Campbell's arrest quickly became a highly publicized sideshow to the already big-name trial.

Attorneys accused other attorneys of a DUI setup. Requests for mistrial were made in court. But it all started that Wednesday night in January, after court wrapped up for the day and Campbell went to Malio's Prime Steakhouse.

According to Campbell's firm, a paralegal from the opposing side's law firm, Adams & Diaco, lied about where she worked, bought Campbell drinks and asked him to drive her car.

Another attorney from Adams & Diaco called Tampa police to let them know a drunk man would likely be leaving Malio's.

Tampa police Sgt. Ray Fernandez got the call. It was from his godson's father, attorney Adam Filthaut. The sergeant would later say the officers sat on the location after they got the tip sometime between 7:30 and 7:45 p.m.

Fernandez was the one who saw Campbell cut off another car about 10 p.m., according to police. McGinnis was brought in for the field sobriety test. His interactions with Campbell were recorded in the 12-minute-long dash camera video.

The video starts with Officer McGinnis leading Campbell onto the sidewalk. The officer explains he was called in because Campbell had a "distinct odor" of alcohol breath.

McGinnis says he wants to check the attorney's eyes. He tells Campbell to follow the tip of the officer's finger with his eyes.

Campbell also follows with his head and McGinnis reminds Campbell a couple of times to move just his eyes.

"Okay," McGinnis eventually says. "I'd like to do some field sobriety exercises, if you'll do that for me."

Campbell appears to agree and puts his eyeglasses on. He explains his medications and speech impediment.

"What do you do for a living?" McGinnis asks.

"We're not going to go there," Campbell replies.

McGinnis explains the tests he plans to have Campbell complete. The two go back and forth, and Campbell tells the officer that he was not driving. "I live there," he says, pointing to a nearby condominium.

"Well, you were driving," the officer replies.

McGinnis explains those are the only sobriety tests he has and asks if Campbell will do them. Campbell hesitates and sighs. His response is inaudible, but apparently it's a refusal.

McGinnis immediately switches modes and says he has enough information to arrest Campbell.

After being handcuffed, Campbell repeatedly asks if he can do the tests. He's changed his mind, he says.

It's too late, the officer replies. If McGinnis allowed Campbell to do the tests at this point, it could appear as if the officer coerced him under the threat of arrest, he explains.

"My decision is made," McGinnis says.

In the back seat of the officer's car, Campbell continues to plead: "I'm in the middle of a big trial, and I've got to show up in the morning. Let me do the test, please."

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office is investigating the DUI charge. They're handling the case because Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober asked to be recused from the case because he testified during the MJ-Bubba trial.

After Tampa police released the dash camera video Wednesday afternoon, Campbell's attorney, John Fitzgibbons, released a statement:

"We will have plenty to say about the set-up arrest of Mr. Campbell and the three-hour stakeout of Mr. Campbell by multiple officers of the Tampa Police Department, but this will come after the special state attorney appointed by the governor has completed his investigation."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

   
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