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Tampa lawyers can be questioned about DUI setup claims

Published Nov. 18, 2014

CLEARWATER — Three Tampa lawyers accused of setting up a DUI sting to ensnare a rival will have to submit to questioning, a judge ordered on Monday.

But that does not mean the lawyers from the firm of Adams & Diaco will offer any answers.

Accused in January 2013 of engineering the arrest of an opposing lawyer during a high-profile trial, Robert Adams, Stephen Diaco and Adam Filthaut have so far refused to answer questions about the allegations against them. All three face charges from the Florida Bar of misconduct, unfairness to opposing counsel and disrupting court.

If they are found guilty, their penalty could range from an admonishment to suspension to disbarment. The last option would prohibit them from practicing law in Florida.

At a status hearing to settle a number of issues in what is now a nearly 2-year-old case, Pinellas-Pasco Senior Judge W. Douglas Baird postponed the trial from December to February. He also ordered the three lawyers to submit to depositions. Their written statement left open the possibility that after refusing to answer questions before the trial, they could surprise Bar attorneys with a last-minute decision to testify.

"The Bar feels like … this looks like some kind of weasel language that tries to have it both ways," Baird said.

Attorney Greg Kehoe, who is defending the three lawyers, called the depositions a "senseless procedure." It is too early to know whether his clients will testify, he said.

But Bar attorneys and Baird clearly don't expect to hear from the accused. At the hearing Monday, Bar attorney Jodi Thompson said she could take all three lawyers' depositions in one day.

"I bet you can take them all in 10 minutes," Baird quipped.

One possible reason for the lawyers' silence is that they remain under investigation by the FBI and a federal grand jury. If they are charged with criminal offenses, anything they say in the Bar trial could be used against them in a federal case that would put much more than their careers in jeopardy.

In January 2013, after a day in court representing radio personality Todd Schnitt in a defamation case, attorney C. Philip Campbell sat in an upscale steak house bar in downtown Tampa. A young paralegal from Adams & Diaco sat next to him, lied about where she worked, flirted and drank with him, according to witnesses.

Campbell was later arrested and charged with DUI while driving her in her car. It was later revealed there were multiple phone calls and texts that night between the paralegal, her bosses and a Tampa police DUI sergeant who pulled Campbell over.

The sergeant, a close friend of one of the Adams & Diaco lawyers, was eventually fired. The DUI charge was dropped.

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

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