Sunday, January 27, 2013


Your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney enjoys practicing in Tampa Bay, Florida where the sheer sporting spectacle of legal scandal never fails to amuse. 
It should lead to an internal investigation when a Lawyer initiates a criminal DUI  investigation in Tampa Bay Florida.
Daumier, The Lawyers, 1850
Amidst a brutal high profile defamation trial between famous local radio personalities Bubba the Love Sponge and MJ Schnitt involving among other sundry details testimony of pigs being killed live on air, one of the lawyers representing Schnitt was popped with a DUI, damn bad luck during an important trial or was it something more?

Luck in this case may have been created when the legal team representing the Love Sponge (really, I'm not making this up) initiated the DUI investigation by calling a Tampa DUI Police Sergeant to check for the car the lawyer was driving. The car the lawyer was driving belonged to the lady he was drinking with, who unbeknownst to him was a paralegal from, you guessed it, the Love Sponge's legal team. 
While the Tampa Circuit Judge plans to make a ruling on whether to grant a motion for mistrial in the ongoing defamation case, he must be wondering what stroke of fate led him to be the one chosen to deal with this mess.
Here are some excerpts from press reports as I'm not keen to be sued should I get these facts wrong, then we'll focus on the implications of corruption within Tampa Bay law enforcement when crime investigations are initiated for personal reasons:

Schnitt's team hinted that Campbell's DUI was a setup - that Melissa Personius, a paralegal for the Love Sponge's attorney Stephen Diaco met up with Campbell Wednesday evening, bought him drinks and then asked him to move her car. After Campbell's arrest his Trial Briefcase packed with many confidential documents about case strategy was left in her car.

Tampa Police Sgt. Ray Fernandez, who arrested Campbell, took the stand, testifying he received a call from a member of the Diaco law firm, asking him to check out a specific car. 

Diaco pleaded the Fifth Amendment when asked if his staff called the Tampa Police Department in the last 48 hours. Personius took the Fifth Amendment when asked if Diaco instructed her to meet Campbell that night. 

It's always refreshing when lawyers take the fifth; someday I aspire to do the same. But what should be of even more concern is the evidence that Tampa Police can be led by the nose to achieve an arrest. 

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor state, "It is unfortunate that the Tampa Police Department has been dragged into this circus. We stand behind our officer. He did what DUI officers do every day, and that is arrest impaired drivers.

Really? Officers often must work on tips. Clearly if a citizen observes reckless driving endangering others a tip could save lives and officers could be remiss in failing to act. 
Yet here there appears to be much more than a mere tip. A lawyer with a possibly illegal hidden agenda had direct access to Tampa's DUI Sergeant. The attorney had enough influence and personal connection to that Sergeant to initiate an immediate investigation of a crime that had not yet occurred. One wonders how many arrests in Tampa Bay are initiated because of personal agendas and vendettas? Tampa Police should be guided by higher standards and an internal affairs misconduct investigation should be initiated especially because of the past failures of law enforcement officers in Tampa Bay.
Why didn't the Sergeant simply say, "If you think that guy is going to drive impaired, make sure he gets a cab," but no, that's never how it happens in Tampa Bay. The ever greater pressure on Tampa Bay law enforcement to make more arrests does not include stopping crime from taking place. 

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