Tampa attorney permanently disbarred over 'shocking,' 'unethical' misconduct

By John Breslin | Sep 22, 2016

TALLAHASSEE – A Florida attorney allegedly involved in a plot to have an opposing counsel wrongfully arrested for drunk driving has been permanently disbarred.

TALLAHASSEE – A Florida attorney allegedly involved in a plot to have an opposing counsel wrongfully arrested for drunk driving has been permanently disbarred.

The state’s Supreme Court ruled Adam Robert Filthaut, of Tampa, be disbarred for intentionally targeting and causing the wrongful arrest of the opposing counsel in a high-profile libel case.

Filthaut is one of three lawyers all of the same firm, Adams & Diaco, to be disbarred following events that happened in January 2013, during the trial involving two radio disc jockeys, “Bubba the Love Sponge” Clem and Todd ‘MJ’ Schnitt.

A referee and a lower court had recommended the disbarment of Filthaut, as well firm partners, Stephen Christopher Diaco and Robert D. Adams. The Supreme Court agreed and ordered permanent disbarment on Aug. 25.

The events that led to Filthaut and the two other attorneys to be stripped of their law licenses happened on Jan. 23. 2013, during a recess in the trial.

The three lawyers were found to have allegedly conspired to set up Phil Campbell, Schnitt’s attorney, to be arrested for driving under the influence.

In its Aug. 25 ruling, the Supreme Court condemned Filthaut and the other lawyers, describing their actions as “unique and essentially unprecedented” wrongdoing.

“The misconduct giving rise to the disciplinary actions against these three attorneys is among the most shocking, unethical, and unprofessional as has ever been brought before this [Supreme] Court,” the 13-page ruling said.

Adams was permanently disbarred by the Supreme Court on the same day as Filthaut, while Diaco suffered the same fate last year.

The court was working on a factual findings report by a referee, who recommended permanent disbarment of Adams and Flithaut.

“The respondents’ willingness to inflict and indifference to causing such harm is, in the words of the referee, quite ‘stunning,’” the ruling concluded.

Adams’ and Filthaut’s disbarment stems from an incident during the January 2013 defamation trial involving Clem and fellow radio personality Todd Schnitt.

Campbell, Schnitt’s attorney, and a co-counsel had walked to a restaurant in Tampa for dinner and drinks, where they were spotted by a paralegal working for Adams and Diacol, according to a the Supreme Court ruling.

The paralegal allegedly contacted Adams and told him Campbell was in the restaurant. She then had drinks with Campbell, without telling him she worked for Adams & Diaco.

While they were in the restaurant drinking, Filthaut allegedly called a friend, then-Tampa police Sgt. Raymond Fernandez and told him Campbell was drinking and might drive while intoxicated.

But Campbell was planning to walk to his home a short distance from the restaurant. He offered to call a cab for the paralegal, who refused because she did not want to leave her car overnight in valet parking and wanted it moved to a more secure lot.

Campbell agreed to move the car to a lot near his apartment building and was pulled over by Fernandez and subsequently charged with DUI. Campbell’s bag containing trial information was left in the paralegal's car.

“The next day, Stephen Diaco made several statements to the media about the DUI of his opposing counsel Campbell, how the arrest caused the trial to be continued, and how Campbell’s behavior was a mockery of the judicial system and an embarrassment to Diaco as an attorney,” the ruling said.

“The respondents’ actions constituted a deliberate and malicious effort to place a heavy finger on the scales of justice for the sole benefit of themselves and their client,” the ruling said.

“The personal and professional harm inflicted upon Campbell (a fellow attorney) and his clients’ case, upon Sergeant Fernandez (a personal friend of Filthaut and officer of the law), and upon the legal system, the legal profession, and the public’s confidence in both, was simply collateral damage from the respondents’ point of view.”

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