TAMPA - The Todd 'MJ' Schnitt civil defamation case against Bubba the Love Sponge Clem may have ended with Bubba being cleared of all liability last week, but it isn't over.
Monday, at a hearing in the court offices of Circuit Judge James Arnold, lawyers on both sides were told, "40 years of law, 29 years on the bench, I have never seen allegations of misconduct like this."
Those allegations of misconduct stem from the DUI arrest of MJ attorney Phil Campbell. In court on Friday, January 25, two days after the arrest, things exploded, with MJ's attorneys accusing Bubba's attorneys of a set-up. They called on the judge to declare a mistrial.
But Judge Arnold, after a relatively speaking quick three-hour investigation right there in court, declared to both of Bubba's main attorneys, "Mr. (Greg) Hearing, the court finds there is no evidence in this case, of impropriety on your part or anybody in your firm. Mr. (Joseph) Diaco, I find no impropriety on your part." And he allowed the trial to continue. But he NEVER ruled on the call for the mistrial.
Monday in a private hearing room, the judge informed both sides that before he rules on the motion for a mistrial, and before ruling who, if anyone, should pay attorney fees, he wants to find out exactly what happened that day. Specifically, he said, he wants to know what happened to Mr Campbell's briefcase, which for a time, was in the possession of the Diaco law firm.
So the judge has now opened the door to allow discovery. From here, requests will be made by the Schnitt camp to subpoena phone records and to depose any individuals involved, or perceived to be involved, in the events that transpired that night leading to Mr. Campbell being arrested.
It could include attorney Stephen Diaco, or a paralegal who worked for the Diaco firm, Melissa Personius. Mr. Campbell had been drinking with Personius, and was driving her car the night of his arrest.
During questioning about the incident, both Stephen Diaco and Personius at times, took the fifth amendment.
According to Bubba's attorney, Greg Hearing, they could get the city involved. "They certainly could serve a records request on the Tampa Police Department."
So what could all this mean to the outcome? If the conduct by someone associated with the case is found to to be so egregious, even if it did not influence the jury, a mistrial can still be declared.
So this case may have ended last week, but it is certainly not over yet.