While it happened almost two years ago, the Bubba the Love Sponge vs. MK defamation trial is still talked about today. Besides the nature of the case itself, the big sideshow was the setting up of MJ's attorney by Bubba's lawyers. The set up resulted in MJ's lawyer getting arrested for a DUI and his trial material being left in the opponent's car! Now the "chickens are coming home to roost" for the lawyers involved...
In Clearwater, Florida three of the lawyers involved in the set up and arrest of an opposing attoney for a DUI are close to a plea deal. This deal may involve surrendering a law license for at least one of the accused.
Stepen Diaco, partner in the Tampa firm of Adams & Diaco, agreed to surrender his license to practice law as part of a plea bargain. This was done in part to protect his law firm. Two other lawyers there, Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut agreed to receive a 91-day suspension.
The plea deal still would need to be approved by both a Pinellas County senior judge and the Florida Supreme Court.
Even if the agreement is approved, it is still controversial. The agreement does not call for any of the attorneys to admit guilt for their roles in the arrest of an opposing counsel in the middle of trial. They only would have to admit to poorly supervising a paralegal at their firm. This might have been done as the accused attorneys are still facing a FBI investigation and possible criminal charges.
The details are still talked about today. In early 2013 there was a defamation law suit between radio DJ Todd "MJ" Schnitt and Bubba the Love Sponge.
The Florida Bar, which filed a formal legal complaint against Adams & Diaco, alleges several underhanded methods the firm used by the firm to help Bubba prevail.
MJ's counsel was eating dinner at a local steakhouse in Tampa (Malio's) after court in the middle of the civil suit. An attractive lady sat next to him and started talking to the attorney. She claimed that she was a paralegal for an unrelated law firm but in reality she lied. In reality, the woman (Melissa Personius) was a paralegal working for Adams.
Phone records that came out during discovery later showed that during the dinner with the attorney, she was texting and calling her boss multiple times. He, in turn, would reply.
After several drinks, she asked MJ's lawyer to drive her home. He offered to get her a cab, he offered a call service and even asked her to keep her car there overnight. The Adams' paralegal insisted he drive her car home.
As soon as he got behind the wheel, the trap was sprung. Tampa Sgt. Ray Fernandez, a friend of Adam Filthaut, was alerted by the law firm and pulled over the attorney immediately. Records later showed that the Sgt. and Filthaut exchanged multiple texts about what he needed to do. One of the texts proved that he was tipped off as soon as MJ's lawyer and Melissa left the restaurant.
While embarrassing for MJ's lawyer, rumors of the DUI being a set up quickly sprung up and it was later revealed that the attorney left his trial briefs in Personious' car...and that Adams & Diaco had full access to them!
Punishment was swift. The cop was fired, the DUI was dismissed and the Florida Bar charged the three attorneys from Adams & Diaco with misconduct, disrupting court and other allegations. The punishment can range from a reprimand to full disbarment.
If this deal is accepted, Diaco will not be able to reapply to the Florida Bar for five years and will need to retake the Bar exam.
At first glance, the 91-day suspensions of Adams and Filthaut seems like an odd number, but there is a method to the madness. Per the Florida Bar handbook, any suspension over 90 days means the attorney cannot practice again until approved by a referee. This means that there is no guarantee the two attorneys will be able to practice again right away and they may need to take further Bar or ethics educational courses.
Meanwhile, the three disgraced lawyers may be facing a civil suit from MJ's attorney. Said a lawyer representing him:
"They agreed to these Bar sanctions because they know what they did that night was wrong and inexcusable. They still do not have the guts or the honesty to testify under oath and be cross-examined about what happened that night".