CLEARWATER — What exactly was Tampa lawyer Philip Campbell doing the night in 2013 he was arrested in downtown Tampa for driving under the influence?
Was he, as he testified Tuesday, trying to move a car to a secure spot as a favor for a woman he believed to be a paralegal at another firm? Or was he, as defense lawyer Greg Kehoe suggested, acting on impulses that might motivate a 64-year-old man, after as many as five vodkas, to drive a woman half his age toward his apartment?
For several hours, Campbell sparred with Kehoe over their divergent account of the events that led to his arrest.
"At my age, I'm still old-fashioned," Campbell said at one point during his three hours of testimony. "And I was trying to do the lady a favor."
In Campbell's telling, a version supported by the Florida Bar, he was set up by three lawyers and a paralegal from the firm of Adams & Diaco. Together, they conspired to have him arrested and removed from a multimillion-dollar defamation lawsuit against one of their clients, radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem. At the time, Campbell was representing Clem's broadcast rival, Todd Schnitt.
The Bar has accused the lawyers — Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut — of misconduct, among other professional violations. They face suspensions or possible disbarment if found guilty.
On the second day of their trial, Campbell described how, one evening after a day in court on the Schnitt vs. Bubba case, he met friends for dinner and drinks in the bar of Malio's Prime Steakhouse in downtown Tampa. He was preparing to leave when two women sat down next to him and struggled to get the bartender's attention.
"I see you've got some pull here," he remembered one saying as he summoned the bartender.
The woman who spoke to him was Melissa Personius, 32, an Adams & Diaco paralegal who, Campbell says, lied to him about where she worked and was "generally flirtatious."
Later — precisely how many Grey Goose vodkas later is in dispute — he got up to leave and she followed him out. Campbell said he called a cab for her, as she was clearly intoxicated. But Personius was adamant about not leaving her car with the valet overnight, so Campbell decided to drive her car to the parking lot near his downtown apartment. There, he reasoned, she could wait in the lobby for a cab.
"I didn't feel that she should be driving, so I took on the responsibility of getting her home safely," he said.
Kehoe, who is representing the three lawyers, said Campbell was not the concerned gentleman he made himself out to be.
Through cross-examination, he pummeled Campbell with questions about his drinking habits, his previous DUI arrest and his motivations that night.
Kehoe appeared intent on depicting him as a narcissist flattered by the attention of a much younger woman and prone to excess. He said that not long after Campbell's arrest for DUI, Schnitt and his wife sued Campbell for breaking his promise to have a "dry trial." That case remains open.
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"You're just sitting around drinking … talking to a young woman who you know is 30 years your junior," Kehoe said.
"I don't know what you're suggesting," Campbell replied.
"You know exactly what I'm suggesting," Kehoe shot back.
"She wasn't in there with a funnel putting alcohol down your throat, was she?" he drilled further. "She wasn't forcing you to get behind the wheel of this car, begging you, 'Oh, Mr. Campbell, drive my car,' was she?
"You did this on your own," Kehoe said.
"I made the decision to drive the vehicle, yes," Campbell said.
Minutes after he left the bar's parking lot in Personius' car, Campbell was pulled over by Tampa police Sgt. Ray Fernandez, a close family friend of attorney Filthaut's. Records later showed that the three Adams & Diaco lawyers and Personius had been exchanging texts and phone calls that night. Fernandez and Filthaut had also called each other repeatedly.
When Campbell refused to take a sobriety test, he was arrested, charged with DUI and taken to jail, where he stayed until 6 the following morning.
After an internal investigation, the Tampa Police Department fired Fernandez and the DUI charge against Campbell was dropped.
Asked if he regretted going out for drinks in the midst of a high-profile trial between warring radio personalities, Campbell said no.
"That's not something I second-guess," he said, "Other than the outcome."
Filthaut, who also was called to the witness stand on Tuesday, refused to answer a Bar lawyer's questions. To each of her inquiries, he replied, "Based upon advice of counsel, I invoke my Fifth Amendment right."
Testimony resumes today.