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Florida Bar files complaints against lawyers in Tampa DUI scandal

Published Jun. 4, 2014

The Florida Bar has filed formal complaints with the state supreme court against three Tampa lawyers accused of setting up opposing counsel for a DUI arrest in a notorious legal scandal.

The agency that governs lawyers has accused Robert Adams, Stephen Diaco and Adam Filthaut of Tampa's Adams & Diaco firm of various violations of Florida Bar rules.

All three face charges of misconduct, unfairness to opposing counsel and disrupting court. If they are found guilty, punishment can range from admonishment to suspension or disbarment.

The simmering legal scandal centers on a bitter defamation trial between warring radio shock jocks Todd Schnitt and Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.

In January 2013 after a day in court, attorney C. Philip Campbell, who represented Schnitt, sat in an upscale steakhouse bar downtown. A young paralegal from the Adams & Diaco firm took the stool next to him, lied about where she worked, flirted and drank with him, according to witnesses. Campbell was later arrested for DUI while driving her in her car.

Then came the revelation of multiple cellphone calls and texts that flew that night between the paralegal in the bar, her bosses and a Tampa police DUI sergeant outside Malio's Prime Steakhouse.

Assigned the DUI case, Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe's office dropped the charge and issued a blistering report calling the paralegal "undercover" and using the words "collaboration" and "organized effort" regarding the arrest. Adams & Diaco lawyers contended they were only helping to get a drunken driver off the streets, the report said, but they put considerable "time, effort and subterfuge" into getting him on the streets.

In other fallout, Tampa DUI Sgt. Ray Fernandez — a close family friend of attorney Filthaut, who tipped him about Campbell that night — was fired after Chief Jane Castor said he "lost his impartiality and professionalism" in this case.

As the Bar moves forward against the three lawyers, an FBI investigation of the matter remains ongoing.

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