TAMPA BAY - Jury selection began in a civil defamation trial involving two of the Tampa Bay area's most well-known radio personalities, Bubba the Love Sponge Clem and Todd "MJ" Schnitt. Already, it appears it will be a long, drawn-out affair, just like the lawsuit itself has been.
When potential jurors finally came into the courtroom at around 11 a.m., it was soon clear it was going to take a while to seat a jury.
The first issue on hand, the length of the trial itself. Those involved in the case expect the case could run 3 weeks. Why? the number of potential witnesses. The Schnitt team could call upwards of 70, and Bubba's team could bring in over 90.
So of the first group of 70 potential jurors, 41 were dismissed, with the remain 29 asked to come back for further questioning tomorrow.
The roots of the case go back to another court case involving Bubba. He stood trial for animal abuse surrounding a radio stunt in which he killed a wild pig.
Many have reported that Bubba believed that Shnitt's wife, Michelle, who worked at the State Attorney's Office at the time, help bring that case to a head. And so Bubba made it his goal to go after Schnitt, who was working mornings at 93.3FLZ, and to bury him in the ratings, allowing Bubba to become the number one morning jock in the bay area.
The Schnitt camp claims Bubba the Love Sponge Clem went too far with that effort, actually launching personal attacks against "MJ" and his wife, Michelle, referring to her in very unflattering terms.
Bubba's team maintains both Schnitts are public personalities and thus, fair game when it comes to broadcasting parodies or gags. In that, basically whatever was done, was just radio shtick.
Local attorney Joe Episcopo, who is not associated with either side in this civil case, says it will be very hard for the Schnitt camp to prove defamation.
In cases such as this, you have to prove that you have suffered financial loss of $15,000 or more because of the actions of one of the parties. When you are dealing with two radio personalities, that may be impossible, because both are in the public eye, so both are fair game.
"How can you defame somebody? That's what they do," said Episcopo. "What 'MJ' should have done was do some parodies on Bubba. He had a lot of material. It would have been very entertaining and maybe he wouldn't have lost his ratings."
The civil case picks up tomorrow morning, more voir dire as they try to seat a jury.