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FBI investigates whether lawyer Phil Campbell's DUI was a set-up during the Bubba vs. MJ trial

11:03 PM, May 24, 2013   |    comments
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Charles Philip Campbell's 2013 mug shot for his DUI arrest


Tampa, FL --  In a major development, the FBI confirms it is investigating whether attorney Phil Campbell's civil rights when he was arrested earlier this year.

On the night of January 23, Campbell was arrested for DUI at the height of the civil shock jock defamation trial between Bubba the Love Sponge Clem and Todd "MJ" Schnitt.

An FBI spokesman tells 10 News, "The FBI will independently analyze all of the facts related to this matter and follow the evidence to a logical conclusion to determine if any federal laws have been violated."

See also: MJ loses defamation lawsuit to Bubba

At the time of the arrest, even Judge James Arnold indicated the whole thing smelled bad.

It started with a phone tip to Tampa Police Sgt. Ray Fernandez, who has personal ties to the Diaco law firm - Campbell's opposing counsel during the shock jock trial.

Fernandez told the court the person who'd contacted him "Gave me the name and description of a car. It was at Malio's."

Then, there was paralegal Melissa Personius, who worked for the same law firm sharing drinks with Campbell at Malio's. Campbell says she asked him to drive her car home. His briefcase filled with shock-jock trial documents was in the back seat, unattended for hours during his arrest.

Personius took the fifth when asked about it.

Opposing counsel himself, Stephen Diaco, claiming he forgot his cell phone the day of that same hearing.

Around 6 a.m. Thursday, FBI agents seized both Diaco's cell phone and the one belonging to Sgt. Fernandez.

"Phones, cell phone records, text messages... is just a wealth of information," said attorney Stephen Crawford, a former federal prosecutor.

Crawford says the FBI is now involved for two reasons. There's the question of whether a Tampa police officer abused his legal authority. And if that happened, whether it manipulated the legal process, violating Campbell's civil rights. Those would be federal crimes.

Given the FBI involvement, Crawford says it's little wonder the parties involved are nervous.

"There's somebody that's gonna get indicted. It's just a question of who and how many," he predicts.

With one of her officers' phones seized, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said her department was cooperating.

"Tampa P.D. holds its officers to very high standards and it will assist the FBI in a thorough investigation," she said.

Meanwhile, Campbell is now represented by attorney John Fitzgibbons, who declined to say whether the FBI initially contacted them, or vice-versa.

Regardless, he said, "It seems clear Mr. Campbell is considered a victim for the purposes of federal criminal statutes."

They're cooperating, he says, and urged "all the lawyers and police officers in this sordid affair to do the same."

There's a hearing on the state's DUI case against Campbell scheduled for next Wednesday morning in Hillsborough County Court.

Given these developments, court-watchers say it may be interesting to see if prosecutors ask for a continuance or perhaps even drop the state charges.

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