M.J. vs. Bubba The Love Sponge: Shock-jock trial under way

5:28 PM, Jan 14, 2013   |    comments
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Bubba "the Love Sponge" Clem

Tampa, Florida -- Two of the Bay area's biggest shock jocks were letting their lawyers do the talking on Monday.

Bubba "the Love Sponge" Clem and Todd "M.J." Schnitt have been embroiled in a five-year defamation battle that finally ended up in a Tampa courtroom.

"This is a case of vengeance. Really, that's all it is," said Joe Episcopo, a local attorney not involved in the case.

Bubba the Love Sponge Clem vs. Todd M.J. Schnitt, says Episcopo, is a battle of two colossal egos.

"One who feels he was wrongly prosecuted, and the other one who thinks his wife was insulted when M.J. himself brought her into the program," said Episcopo.

The civil case dates back five years. Schnitt and his wife are suing Bubba and Cox Broadcasting for times when Bubba called M.J. a liar and a thief on the radio.

There were other occasions when Bubba said he wanted M.J. dead, they claim, and called Mrs. Schnitt a "whore" and unethical in her job as a state prosecutor.

Local listeners may recall Bubba was charged in a now-infamous on-air hog killing while Mrs. Schnitt, the wife of Bubba's fierce morning competitor, was in the prosecutor's office.

It's tough to prove defamation, says attorney Joe Episcopo.

"You know, how can you defame somebody? That's what they do. What M.J. should have done was do some parodies on Bubba," he said.

On Monday lawyers spent hours just trying to narrow the potential jury pool to those who can even sit on a jury for three weeks without too much personal hardship.

Tuesday will perhaps be the bigger challenge: further narrowing that group to those who haven't heard of these guys or formed an opinion.

"The difficulty is whether they can be fair and impartial in spite of whether they've heard about it," said Episcopo.

Legally speaking, the case may be one worth watching. It could further define who is a public figure, and influence how much leeway shock-jocks have when it comes to their free speech.

If the jury decides the Schnitts have not suffered any real monetary damages, all of this may be a very expensive matter of principle... six-figure legal fees on both sides, Episcopo guesses.

"So the winner gets their costs paid. And they get to say 'I won.' That's really what it's about."

Jury selection continues Tuesday and they expect opening statements to get under way later that day or early Wednesday.

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