Attorney asks independent counsel to investigate Tampa DUI unit - WFLA News Channel 8

Attorney asks independent counsel to investigate Tampa DUI unit

Posted: Updated:

An attorney for a man arrested for DUI in the midst of a high-profile trial between Tampa radio rivals is asking for a special independent counsel to be appointed to investigate the DUI unit of the Tampa Police Department after allegations of a set-up.

The request comes after Pinellas and Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe announced this week that he would not pursue charges against attorney Phil Campbell, saying "we would be unable to sustain a successful prosecution."

Colleagues of Campbell, who represented Todd "MJ" Schnitt in his lawsuit against radio rival Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem, have long claimed the arrest was a set-up orchestrated by people with the law firm Campbell was going up against in the trial.

The tip about Campbell that night came to Tampa Police Sgt. Raymond Fernandez, supervising the DUI unit, from a personal friend who is a lawyer with the opposing law firm.

John Fitzgibbons, who represents Campbell,  sent a hand-delivered letter to Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Thursday, laying out concerns about the Campbell case and other issues including tips to officers from personal friends and the availability of dashcam video.

"Six months have passed since Mr. Campbell was arrested," Fitzgibbons said at a news conference at his office. "So my question is, ‘What has the city of Tampa and what has the Tampa Police Department done to address this scandal, and the troublesome answer is virtually nothing."

In her own news conference later Thursday afternoon, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said a special independent counsel is not needed. The incident is already under investigation by the FBI.   

"The FBI is doing a very thorough investigation and there is no need for any independent counsel," Castor said.

Fernandez has been temporarily reassigned and Castor has said he should have removed himself from the investigation. She also said when she learned Fernandez had exchanged 92 texts with his friend, Adam Filthaut, that night, "disappointment would be an understatement."

"We don't feel that he did this investigation based on that friendship, his goal was to get an impaired driver off the street," she said. "Did he show bad judgment on that? Clearly that's the case."

Campbell was arrested Jan. 23 after leaving Tampa restaurant Malio's. A paralegal who works for the law firm representing the other side in the trial was at the restaurant with him and Campbell was driving her car.

In his report, McCabe pointed to numerous texts and calls between the paralegal and others at the law firm, and between Filthaut and his friend Fernandez, saying there appeared to be a "collaboration" to "effectuate the arrest of Campbell."

In his letter to Castor and Buckhorn, Fitzgibbons suggested the special independent counsel be a lawyer with no ties to Tampa, "preferably a former Federal prosecutor experienced in corruption, civil rights and police procedures." He said the counsel should issue a report on his or her findings within 120 days.

A spokeswoman for Buckhorn said he was out of town and not available for comment.

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Pricey processing issue at Tampa hair academy resolved

    Pricey processing issue at Tampa hair academy resolved

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:35 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:35:13 GMT
    Loretta Maloy says she always expected to pay for the courses she took those several weeks, but thought $10,000 in loans just wasn’t right.
    Loretta Maloy says she always expected to pay for the courses she took those several weeks, but thought $10,000 in loans just wasn’t right.
  • New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 8:58 AM EDT2014-04-23 12:58:50 GMT
    Soldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photoSoldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photo
     When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
    When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
  • TPD homicide detective under federal criminal investigation

    TPD homicide detective under federal criminal investigation

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 6:55 PM EDT2014-04-22 22:55:30 GMT
    Tampa Police Officer Eric Houston, who is working at a crime scene in this file photo, is under federal investigation.Tampa Police Officer Eric Houston, who is working at a crime scene in this file photo, is under federal investigation.
    The feds are investigating one of Tampa Police Department's lead homicide detectives. Officer Eric Houston, who is one of the lead detectives in the Julie Schenecker murder investigation, is under federal criminal investigation. 
    The feds are investigating one of Tampa Police Department's lead homicide detectives. Officer Eric Houston, who is one of the lead detectives in the Julie Schenecker murder investigation, is under federal criminal investigation. 
  • NewsMore>>

  • Manatee deputies identify body found in Palmetto

    Manatee deputies identify body found in Palmetto

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:25 AM EDT2014-04-23 15:25:22 GMT
    Manatee County Sheriff Deputies say a body was found alongside U.S. 41 N. in Palmetto on Tuesday evening. 
    Manatee County Sheriff Deputies say a body was found alongside U.S. 41 N. in Palmetto on Tuesday evening. 
  • 2 St. Pete women accused in violent road rage attack

    2 St. Pete women accused in violent road rage attack

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:19 AM EDT2014-04-23 15:19:02 GMT
    Amber Lynn Beckwith (Left) and Ariel Young (right) are accused in a violent road rage attack. Pinellas County Jail booking photoAmber Lynn Beckwith (Left) and Ariel Young (right) are accused in a violent road rage attack. Pinellas County Jail booking photo
    St. Petersburg Police say two women rammed into another woman's car, pulled her out of the car and attacked her in the middle of a street.
    St. Petersburg Police say two women rammed into another woman's car, pulled her out of the car and attacked her in the middle of a street.
  • 'Selfies' not welcome at USF graduation ceremony

    'Selfies' not welcome at USF graduation ceremony

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:15 AM EDT2014-04-23 15:15:22 GMT
    University of South Florida Student Affairs office announced Wednesday that students should refrain from taking selfies while on stage during the university's graduation ceremony this spring.
    University of South Florida Student Affairs office announced Wednesday that students should refrain from taking selfies while on stage during the university's graduation ceremony this spring.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 2:49 PM EDT2014-04-22 18:49:19 GMT
    Image from CNN/KHOU-TVImage from CNN/KHOU-TV
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
  • New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 8:58 AM EDT2014-04-23 12:58:50 GMT
    Soldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photoSoldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photo
     When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
    When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
  • Disabled vet reunited with service dog lost in car wreck

    Disabled vet reunited with service dog lost in car wreck

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 1:49 PM EDT2014-04-22 17:49:00 GMT
    Luke Macner and Nina. Photo courtesy the Humane Society of Tampa BayLuke Macner and Nina. Photo courtesy the Humane Society of Tampa Bay
    A disabled Tampa veteran was brought to tears Tuesday when he was reunited with his service dog after she went missing in a car wreck.
    A disabled Tampa veteran was brought to tears Tuesday when he was reunited with his service dog after she went missing in a car wreck.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.