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Sources indicate MJ attorneys will file motions for a new trial

12:12 AM, Feb 7, 2013   |    comments
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Todd "M.J." Schnitt takes the stand during a defamation lawsuit against Bubba the Love Sponge Clem
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TAMPA, Florida - And the hits just keep on coming.

Just when you thought one of the Bay area's most infamous trials was through, well, think again. MJ vs. Bubba is the controversial case that just keeps going and going.

Now, 10 News has learned there could be a new trial soon. Sources have indicated that MJ's legal team will, in all likelihood, be filing motions for a new trial.

On his radio show recently, in the presence of media, MJ stated he "would do this all over again." He added, "I fought for my family, my wife and kids."

However, he also stated that this trial ruined his life, in addition to his family's.

The motions could be filed in the next week.

Bubba the Love Sponge Clem was cleared of all charges recently during a defamation lawsuit where rival radio host Todd "MJ" Schnitt sued for damages and lost. The jury sided with Bubba, while one juror told MJ to "put on his big girl panties and get over it."

The case made national headlines when MJ's attorney, Phil Campbell, was arrested for DUI after drinking at Malio's with a pretty legal assistant who works for the same law firm representing Bubba. Some called it a "honeypot" scheme, where she allegedly enticed Campbell into a massive setup that night.  The now-infamous event has been the subject of continuous analysis, fodder for gossip and water cooler humor.

However, Judge Arnold isn't laughing.

On Monday, the judge in the case held a closed-door private meeting with both attorneys and the media, where he said, "In my 40 years of practicing law and 29 years on the bench, I've never seen allegations of misconduct like this."

He referred to the alleged DUI setup with MJ's attorney, Phil Campbell and the subsequent legal briefcase of his that went missing after that night of drinking at Malio's.

Judge Arnold ordered a full investigation into that now-fateful night at Malio's and the DUI arrest afterward. The judge wants to know exactly what happened, every last detail, and that includes depositions from attorneys and the possible seizure of phone records.

Now, the Florida Bar is involved. A spokesperson confirmed to 10 News today there is a current investigation by Florida Bar members into MJ's attorney, Phil Campbell, Bubba's attorney, Steve Diaco, and Adam Filthaut, an attorney who works with Diaco.

None of the attorneys commented on the case today, although 10 News tried repeatedly to garner an interview.

The legal assistant accused of enticing Campbell to drink at Malio's is not being investigated by the bar. However, Melissa Personius will most likely still be deposed as part of Judge Arnold's investigation, and her phone records could be seized.

Although Steve Diaco made comments when testifying in court such as, "I don't recall," he will not be able to invoke those same privileges, experts say, when testifying before the bar. He, along with others, must answer all questions.

Longtime and well-known Tampa attorney and former federal prosecutor Steve Crawford has watched the trial closely and weighed in on the ramifications it has created.

"I've been practicing law a long time, and I've never seen anything like this. It is not common," Crawford told 10 News.  

Steve Diaco has long maintained his innocence. In fact, in court during the trial, he said he had nothing to do with Phil Campbell's missing briefcase. But, Judge Arnold wants more answers about the night the briefcase went missing.

Steve Diaco testified in court, "I never laid a finger on [the briefcase]."

Attorneys are said to be preparing for depositions right now after subpoenas were served.  

Judge Arnold said today, "The discovery process has started. I'm waiting to hear from attorneys."

Diaco also said in court he didn't know anything about the alleged DUI setup. He told the judge, "I don't recall having that conversation."

So, what happens if these prominent Tampa attorneys are disbarred? The investigation could take a year or longer, experts say. If they are disbarred, it could take up to five years to get reinstated, Crawford told 10 News, and could cost thousands of dollars. The attorneys would also have to retake the bar exam.

Crawford says the Florida Bar weighs cases like this carefully. "There could be a few less lawyers in Tampa, Florida."

Be sure to follow reporter Melanie Michael's updates on the case on Twitter @WTSPMelanie.

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