The lawyer who became a story himself during the Bubba the Love Sponge Clem-Todd "MJ" Schnitt defamation trial will not face DUI charges.
The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office announced Monday it has dropped the charges against attorney Philip Campbell.
Campbell, 64, who represented Schnitt during the defamation trial involving the Tampa-based radio personalities earlier this year, was arrested during the trial on DUI charges.
Pinellas-Pasco authorities, who were handed the investigation from the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office to avoid any conflict of interest, said there was not sufficient evidence to go forward with any prosecution.
Investigators said several people who were with Campbell on Jan. 23 said he "looked fine and did not appear to be under the influence."
Schnitt's team hinted that Campbell's DUI was a setup - that Melissa Personius, a paralegal for Clem's attorney Stephen Diaco, met up with Campbell on that evening, bought him drinks and then asked him to move her car.
Schnitt's attorneys claim that’s when Campbell was arrested on a DUI charge by Tampa police.
When that happened, MJ's legal team claims, Campbell left his trial bag, which contained important, confidential documents, in Personius' car. He had no idea that Personius was a paralegal for Diaco's law firm.
Pinellas officials also concluded that Personius, whom they said was with Campbell the longest that evening, was in fact, herself, intoxicated.
Another conclusion of the study was that any reasonable juror would reject her testimony, citing her self-reported memory loss and intoxication from that evening.
In a memorandum released Monday, Pinellas prosecutors wrote; "The goal was to arrest Campbell to benefit (Tampa Police) Sgt. Fernandez’s friend, Filthaut, and the A & D law firm in a pending civil trial.”
“The public relations mantra from A & D has been that they were only helping get a drunk driver off the streets. This rings hollow when you consider the time, effort and subterfuge used by them to get Campbell on the streets.”
“Mr. Campbell is grateful for the incredibly thorough investigation conducted by State Attorney Bernie McCabe at the Governor’s direction," said John Fitzgibbons, Campbell’s attorney, in a released statement. "It is now absolutely clear that Mr. Campbell was the victim of a devious set up and all honest and ethical police officers and lawyers should be deeply troubled over what happened to Mr. Campbell.”
Greg Kehoe of the law firm Greenberg Traurig, who is representing Adams & Diaco in the matter, said in a statement:
“We respect the system and the decision made today by the State Attorney’s office as part of the process. Given that investigations into this matter are continuing, we cannot comment further at this time.”
Bubba Clem responded via Twitter: “This setup nonsense has nothing to do with me or the fact that a jury of my peers found in my favor vs Todd Schnitt. This was just another weak attempt from the losers to justify why they got their a** kicked in court by me/jay diaco/Greg hearing.”
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor released the following statement.
"It is clear that Sergeant Ray Fernandez utilized bad judgment when he failed to remove himself from this investigation. He should have assigned it to an officer who did not have a personal connection to the tip. This would have avoided any potential appearance of impropriety. The Tampa Police Department is working closely with the FBI on the official investigation into this entire incident. When the investigation is complete, the department will then speak to the specifics of the case."
According to partner newspaper the Tampa Bay Times, the FBI and the Florida Bar are still investigating the case.