TALLAHASSEE – Another Florida attorney has been permanently disbarred in a case that allegedly involved setting up the arrest of another attorney.
Attorney Adam Filthaut was the latest and the last attorney to receive permanent disbarment for his alleged involvement with getting rival attorney Phil Campbell wrongfully arrested for driving under the influence. Filthaut, along with attorneys Robert Adams and Stephen Diaco, and the help of a paralegal and a police officer were all purportedly a part of an elaborate scheme to set Campbell up for an arrest while he was working on a trial against each other.
Filthaut was disbarred in a decision by the Florida Supreme Court. Filthaut, who was an attorney at Tampa's Adams & Diaco, allegedly conspired with Adams and Diaco to have Campbell picked up for DUI. Adams was permanently disbarred recently and Diaco received his permanent disbarment last month.
Filthaut was a medical malpractice, personal injury, insurance and entertainment lawyer practicing in Tampa. He, along with Adams and Diaco were representing disc jockey Bubba the Love Sponge Clem in a case that was brought against him by radio disc jockey Todd “MJ” Schnitt, who Campbell was representing. The case filed by Schnitt accused Clem of making derogatory remarks about him and his wife.
Prior to the wrongful arrest, Campbell was dining at a steakhouse when he was approached by Melissa Personius, a paralegal at Diaco, Adams, and Filthaut. Personius allegedly lied about who she was and proceed to buy Campbell drinks and flirt with him. Upon leaving, Campbell planned to walk home when Personius allegedly told Campbell she didn’t want to leave her car in valet. Campbell offered to give her a ride to the parking garage where he was arrested for DUI. The Tampa Bay Police officer that arrested Campbell was Ray Fernandez, a family friend to Filthaut.
All five parties had allegedly exchanged text messages and phone calls during that evening according to phone records and Personius’ husband took the stand during the trial, admitting that his wife told him her bosses orchestrated the arrest, making her trick Campbell into driving that night. He had a recording of the conversation, corroborating his testimony that he later played for Campbell.
The DUI charges against Campbell were eventually dropped and Fernandez was fired from the Tampa Bay Police Department. Adams, Filthaut, and Diaco were permanently disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court.
Regarding whether the punishment fit the crime, John Fitzgibbons of the law office of John Fitzgibbon, who represented Campbell, told the Florida Record, “It was definitely appropriate. The conduct of these three crooked lawyers was disgusting and they should never practice law in Florida again, and they won’t.”
For Campbell, the situation was something out of a movie and something that he has surpassed.
“For any person going through something like this, it’s extremely stressful and difficult,” said Fitzgibbons. “Mr. Campbell was wrongfully charged with a crime and then when the true facts started to unfold, it was clear that he was a victim. It’s not anything any person, let alone a lawyer, would want to go through.”
According to The Florida Bar, there have been 54 disbarments of attorneys from 2015 to 2016 in Florida, of which 11 were permanent. There is no reinstatement for permanent disbarment, meaning the legal careers of Adams, Filthaut, and Diaco are over.
While Campbell’s case with Schnitt didn’t prevail, he did get an order that Clem does not talk about his wife on air, which was the subject of the dispute.