It’s the case that seemingly has everything. Local celebrities, an attractive young paralegal, free flowing alcohol, and an alleged criminal setup of a high profile attorney. The only problem? It’s simply not true.
The Florida Bar Grievance Committee has already agreed that Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams, and Adam Filthaut, the attorneys accused of orchestrating the DUI arrest of an opposing attorney, did not criminally “setup” the lawyer in question. The Bar did not charge the Adams & Diaco lawyers with that violation and found no probable cause that the violation occurred.
The case involving local lawyers Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams, Adam Filthaut and C. Philip Campbell has drawn a lot of coverage within the Tampa community. The recently released details in what’s largely been a media driven narrative have created a firestorm where there’s barely a spark.
“There’s a sizzle factor here that exists because it’s a small town and there’s not much else going on,” says noted international attorney Greg Kehoe, the legal representation for Adams & Diaco. “It’s not really that interesting, and if there were a hard news event happening, this story would get no coverage.”
The story dates back to January 23, 2013. Campbell was representing local radio shock jock Todd Schnitt in a defamation case against rival disc jockey Bubba “The Love Sponge” Clem, who had retained the Adams & Diaco law firm. Campbell was having drinks at a local bar following a day in court, and after several rounds he ended up leaving with a paralegal, Melissa Personius. He was subsequently pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence.
Following the arrest, controversy arose when it was it discovered that the paralegal worked for Adam & Diaco, and that Campbell had been driving her car. Ultimately, due to protests by the law firm where Campbell worked and the high-profile nature of the disc jockey case, the Florida Bar looked into the situation.
However, the whole tale sounds much less intriguing when viewed in terms of the facts. In the written response filed by Adams & Diaco with the Florida Bar, several pages of undisputed facts have for the first time been disclosed. Interestingly, none of the local Tampa media chose to report any of these facts. These items dispel the entire myth of a “setup.” A few of the facts are too telling to overlook:
The Pinellas County State’s Attorney’s investigation was based on erroneous or misinterpreted phone records.
Text records for Robert Adams maintained by T-Mobile were recorded in Pacific Standard Time (PST).
The Pinellas County State’s Attorney’s investigation reported Adams’ texts in Eastern Standard Time (EST). This resulted in counting many texts twice or using the timing erroneously.
Personius did not seek out Campbell at the bar at Malio’s in an effort to sit next to him.
Vanessa Fykes accompanied Personius to the bar and testified that there were no other seats and it was purely coincidental.
The receipts from Malio’s show that Personius did not “ply” Campbell with alcohol.
Fykes confirmed that the shot of alcohol consumed by Campbell and purchased by Personius was, in fact, purchased for Fykes, but she declined.
On his own, Campbell consumed 5 vodka on the rocks and 1 shot. The vodka on the rocks were each 1 ½ – 2 ounces of vodka and not a single shot as reported by the investigation.
Campbell testified that Personius never even asked him to drive.
Video from the restaurant shows that Personius initially moved to get into the driver’s seat herself, and was redirected by Campbell to the passenger side. This was after Campbell walked past an empty cab to get to Personius’ car. In essence, Campbell voluntarily got behind the wheel, and afterwards committed a traffic offense while intoxicated that led to his arrest.
Kehoe’s take is that the news media is chiefly responsible for the momentum the story has gained.
“This is largely a media created event,” he says. “Several of the lawyers involved on the other side are friends with the journalists who are driving this story. That, coupled with the intrigue created by the sensationalism of the media, is giving this thing legs. Obviously, they think it will sell newspapers.”
But Kehoe, an attorney of over 30 years who has appeared before The Hague, the International Criminal Court and led the team of lawyers and investigators which advised the Iraqi Special Tribunal, an ad hoc court formed to prosecute Saddam Hussein and members of his former regime, is confident the Bar will make the right call.
“The reality is that this was no setup, no matter how exciting that story may seem. I’m glad that the Florida Bar Grievance Committee has already agreed,” he says. “The opposing attorneys’ claims do not line up, and this case has been plagued by inaccuracies. The fact is, Phil Campbell drove drunk under his own free will, and that’s nobody’s fault but his.”
It seems the facts agree.