TAMPA, Florida - Longtime, well-known attorney Stephen Diaco has been under the microscope recently.
As part of Bubba the Love Sponge's legal team, he advised attorneys throughout the defamation lawsuit filed by Todd "MJ" Schnitt.
The now-infamous trial took a strange turn when MJ's attorney, Phil Campbell, was arrested for DUI after drinking at Malio's with a legal assistant, Melissa Personius, who works the same firm representing Bubba, Adams & Diaco. Then, sources say, Campbell got into Personius' car to drive her home when Tampa police stopped him.
MJ's team also alleges that someone from Adams & Diaco alerted the cops. In addition, Campbell left his briefcase, sources say, in Personius' car, allegedly in the "hands of the enemy," some claim.
The judge in this case was furious, saying that he has never seen such serious allegations of attorney misconduct in his lengthy career.
MJ's team claims that Steve Diaco was a part of that alleged DUI setup or "honey-pot" scheme. However, Diaco has long since claimed his innocence, and today he showed what his attorney is calling the proof of that innocence.
Diaco says he's taken a lie detector test and passed it, which should prove he was not involved in any unscrupulous activity that happened at Malio's.
As of now, Pinellas State Attorney Bernie McCabe will have to investigate Campbell's DUI case, since Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober was a witness at trial and would be considered a conflict of interest.
As for the briefcase, Diaco claims he never looked inside.
Diaco made headlines when he pleaded the Fifth Amendment during a hearing. He says he had to because he did not have a chance to get counsel prior to his testimony. Diaco is currently under investigation by the Florida Bar.
This letter was released to the media today from
Lee D. Gunn IV, a
Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer representing Steve Diaco:
"Todd "MJ" and Michelle Schnitt have presented a motion seeking to set aside the jury verdict entered in favor of Bubba Clem in the defamation lawsuit. The allegations of attorney misconduct argued in support of a new trial arose in the middle of the defamation jury trial.
"A preliminary hearing was held on January 25, 2013, less than 48 hours after the events leading up to the arrest of one of Schnitt's counsel for DUI, on the evening of January 23,2013. The Schnitts' attorneys first notified me of their intention to take my sworn testimony on January 24, 2013, at 7:00 p.m., the night before the hearing on January 25th.
"I had less than four business hours to obtain and consult with legal counsel to address this matter. At the time of my being asked to give testimony, my attorney did not have the opportunity to gain a full understanding of the issues. An active criminal investigation was underway as against Schnitts' counsel. Under such circumstances, I accepted the advice of my attorney to assert my Fifth Amendment privilege during that January 25, 2013, initial hearing before Judge Arnold.
"I am no longer under the advice of my counsel to assert the Fifth Amendment privilege. I look forward to fully cooperating and providing relevant testimony regarding the facts alleged by the Schnitts in support of the motion for a new trial. Further statements from me will be provided in the form of testimony presented in the proper forum out of respect for the legal process.
"A central issue raised by the Schnitts is whether I, or anyone associated with Adams & Diaco, P.A., looked at the contents of the Mr. Campbell's trial bag. Upon my learning that the trial bag was in the possession of an Adams & Diaco employee my immediate instruction was not to open the bag. To my knowledge, that instruction was followed and at no time did anyone associated with my firm open the bag or gain knowledge of its contents during the trial.
"I voluntarily submitted to a lie detector test on Friday, February 8, 2013. The test was performed by Richard W. Keifer, a certified FBI polygraph examiner since 1982 and who served as an FBI special Agent for 26 years in Tampa, NYC, Washington DC, and Orlando field offices. Mr. Keifer evaluated these questions and answers:
A. Did you see any of the documents in Campbell's briefcase? Answer - No
B. Did you ever obtain or use any information from Campbell's briefcase? Answer- No.
Mr. Keifer concluded:
"I evaluated the responses to the above questions as not indicative of deception. I conducted a reliability check using the computerized evaluation system known as the Objective Scoring System (OSS 3V 1.6.1). The OSS 3 evaluation concluded that no significant reactions indicative of deception were present and that the probability this result was produced by a deceptive person was .008.
"These questions were also asked of other members of my Firm which may be alleged to have gained an unfair trial advantage by accessing the Schnitts' trial counsel's bag. Robert Adams, Joseph Diaco, Jr., Brian Motroni, and Adam Filthaut all passed the lie detector test.
"While such tests may not be admissible in a court proceeding, I wanted to provide something to those concerned which buttresses our assurances that we did not read counsel's materials. I respect that Melissa Personius is separately represented by counsel. I anticipate that she, through her own counsel, will make the decision whether to comment publicly on the pending legal proceeding.
"It is most unfortunate that counsel's trial bag was ever out of his possession. No one at Adams & Diaco wanted anything to do with opposing counsel's bag that was left behind in Ms. Personius' car. The unopened trial bag was returned to the offices of Schnitts' counsel. The contents of the trial bag were never used for unfair trial advantage. The jury's verdict in favor of Mr. Clem is the product of a fair trial."
Follow 10 News Reporter Melanie Michael on twitter @WTSPMelanie