TAMPA - It was a bizarre turn of events in the court fight between two bay area shock jocks.
Court proceedings only lasted about five minutes Thursday morning as the judge overseeing the case excused the jury and instructed attorneys from both sides to meet him in his chambers. The meeting was behind closed doors and what was said has not been made public.
This followed news of the arrest of Todd "MJ" Schnitt's lead council, Charles Phil Campbell. He was arrested late Wednesdy night in Downtown Tampa for DUI.
According to the police report, the officer who pulled Campbell over at Cass Street and Tampa Street noticed he had "red, glassy eyes" and had a "distinct odor of an alcoholic beverage."
This is Campbell's second DUI charge in the last five years, something Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem's attorney, Stephen Diaco, said is outrageous, especially after hearing the trial was put on hold for the day.
"Thats to his advantage," said Diaco. "Now he gets a good night sleep? Now he gets to prepare his witness more? His last DUI was almost twice the legal limit. He didn't learn his lesson."
Schnitt has said repeatedly on his radio show that he would fire anyone working for him who was charged with a DUI. When asked about that, he had no comment. His attorney had no comment either Thursday morning.
Local DUI attorney and legal expert Kevin Hayslett said even though today's proceedings were cut short, he thinks things will get back on track.
"I don't expect him to declare a mistrial," said Hayslett. "I expect the show to go on, if you will. But obviously the criminal arrest of lead council for the plaintiff has a dramatic effect. I mean, you can't make this stuff up."
But while he expects the trial to push forward, Hayslett said Campbell's future is definitely in question. If convicted of this DUI charge, the penalties for that are hefty.
"First of all there is a minimum of 10 days in jail," explains Hayslett. "Second, five year license revocation. Also, a person with a second DUI conviction has to have in his car an interlock device that he has to blow into before his car will start."
Schnitt is suing Clem for $15,000, alleging he made defamatory statements about he and his wife.
Testimony will resume Friday at 9 a.m. Schnitt's wife is expected on the stand.
Statement from Phil Campbell's law office:
"The DUI charge against attorney Phil Campbell is certainly a serious matter. We have a high level of respect for law enforcement and the legal process.
However, this development has nothing to do with Mr. and Mrs. Schnitt or their current defamation trial. We will continue to advocate for Mr. and Mrs. Schnitt's rights and have the utmost confidence in Mr. Campbell and our entire legal team as they continue to provide high-level legal counsel in this case."
J. Todd Timmerman
Managing Partner, Tampa
Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP