MJ v BUBBA: Judge furious, did lawyers behave badly?

8:18 PM, Feb 4, 2013   |    comments
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Todd "M.J." Schnitt (left) and Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem (right) appear in a Hillsborough courtroom. Schnitt has filed a defamation lawsuit, saying Clem made offensive comments about him and his wife.

Tampa, Florida - Just when you thought the drama was over in the MJ versus Bubba trial, get ready for round two.

Monday, the latest bombshell in the saga involves an angry judge and a possible new trial.

Judge James Arnold held a private, closed-door meeting with the attorneys in the case and reporters. Cameras were not allowed inside his chambers, but Judge Arnold announced that he now wants a full investigation into any possible misconduct by the lawyers in this case.

Until he gets the finding from this investigation, he will not make any rulings on a mistrial.

The judge wants to know exactly what happened that fateful, and now-infamous night where MJ's attorney, Phil Campbell, was arrested for DUI after drinking at hot-spot Malio's with a pretty legal assistant named Melissa Personius.  

Personius works at the same law firm representing Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.

Was it a honeypot scheme? Was Phil Campbel set up? Attorneys for MJ made a motion for mistrial, accusing Bubba's team of setting up Campbell that night.  

Bubba and his team have long since denied any invovement, calling the accusations preposterous. 

Judge Campbell will not rule on a mistrial, he says, until he receives the full results of the investigation. In addition, he will have to make a ruling on MJ's legal fees and whether or not Bubba must foot the bill.

Judge Arnold told reporters and attorneys today, "In my 40 years of practicing law and my 29 years on the bench, I have never seen allegations of misconduct like this."

Then, there's the issue of Campbell's missing legal briefcase, left in Melissa Personius' car, sources say, as he was driving her home and was pulled over by Tampa Police. They suspected he was driving drunk, and he was subsequently arrested.

The question remains - Did anyone get a look inside that briefcase? Was it compromised in any way?

As part of the investigation, Judge Arnold says it is possible that both Melissa Personius and attorney Stephen Diaco will be deposed, and their phone records seized from that night. In addition, there's the possibility that Phil Campbell could also be deposed. The judge wants to know if anyone in Bubba's law circles had access to Campbell's briefcase.

Judge Arnold made it clear Monday in his closed-door meeting that he wants to know if someone had access to the briefcase and if so, if that person or persons rifled through any legal secrets inside and to affect the outcome of the trial.

Bubba's attorney, Greg Hearing, told 10 News, "The important thing was the judge found unequivocally this didn't affect the jury, it didn't affect the outcome.  He's got to be the referee to make sure people played by the rules in court."

Greg Hearing and Jay Diaco have not been implicated in any misconduct allegations.

Hearing also said, "I understand [the judge] wants to know exactly what happened and he has every right to find out."

As for MJ's attorneys, they didn't say much as they left court. Jonathan Ellis told 10 News, "We are reviewing what we need to review."

At this point, the investigation is on and active.

The judge said that if he found any wrongdoing or if Phil Campbell's briefcase was compromised, there could be a new trial in this case.

Follow 10 News Reporter Melanie Michael on twitter @WTSPMelanie

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