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Florida Bar recommends disbarment for three Adams & Diaco lawyers guilty of DUI setup

Lawyers for Stephen Diaco asked for a lesser penalty.
Lawyers for Stephen Diaco asked for a lesser penalty.
Published Aug. 18, 2015

The Florida Bar asked a Pinellas judge on Monday to revoke the law licenses of three Tampa lawyers accused of arranging the arrest of a rival attorney during a high-profile trial in 2013.

The Bar's lawyers recommended that Stephen Diaco, a partner at Adams & Diaco, be permanently disbarred for his role in orchestrating C. Philip Campbell's DUI arrest in 2013. Calling Diaco's motives "malicious and for personal gain," the Bar's lawyers wrote that his actions not only interrupted a trial, but also "tarnished the reputation of the legal profession and the Tampa Police Department."

For Diaco's colleagues, Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut, the Bar recommended a lighter punishment: temporary disbarment with the opportunity to reapply for their law licenses after five years.

Whatever punishment Pinellas Senior Judge W. Douglas Baird chooses is subject to the Florida Supreme Court's approval. His recommendation is due at the end of the month.

Last month, Baird found all three lawyers guilty of arranging Campbell's DUI arrest to gain an advantage in a multimillion-dollar defamation lawsuit pitting their client, radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, against his radio rival, Todd "MJ" Schnitt. At the time, Campbell was representing Schnitt.

After reviewing the case, the judge placed most of the blame on Diaco, finding him guilty of nearly twice as many professional violations as his colleagues, including lying to a judge about not knowing the name of his cellphone provider.

Attorneys for Diaco responded on Monday by asking Baird not to "professionally destroy a person who had done so much for this community." They pointed to Diaco's years of charitable giving and the fact that he had apologized "for the events that occurred."

Without suggesting a specific punishment for their client, they asked that whatever sanction he receive be "limited in scope and time."

Adams' attorney asked that his client receive no more than a 91-day suspension — the punishment initially agreed upon by the Bar and Adams' attorney before a judge rejected their settlement agreement.

Noting that his client was acting on his boss' orders, Filthaut's attorney asked only that he receive a lighter punishment than this two colleagues.

Contact Anna M. Phillips at aphillips@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3354. Follow @annamphillips.

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