Legal Ethics

3 lawyers face legal ethics case in claimed mid-trial DUI arrest setup of opposing counsel


A claimed set-up of a Florida lawyer for a drunken-driving arrest last year has resulted in formal legal ethics charges against three attorneys.

C. Philip Campbell was trying a high-profile defamation case at the time, and Adams & Diaco was representing the opposing side. Partners Robert Adams and Stephen Diaco and associate Adam Filthaut are accused of involvement in a flurry of phone calls and texts which allegedly resulted in a Tampa police arrest of their litigation opponent. Campbell reportedly wound up in jail that night and his trial bag spent hours in the custody of his opposing counsel after an Adams & Diaco paralegal joined him at the bar of a steakhouse and, without revealing her connection to the law firm, persuaded him to get behind the wheel of her car.

The driving-under-the-influence case against Campbell was dropped months after the Jan. 23, 2013 incident. However, an FBI investigation to determine whether Campbell’s civil rights were violated is ongoing and on the Florida Bar filed legal ethics complaints against Adams (PDF), Diaco (PDF) and Filthaut (PDF). The Tampa Bay Times, the Tampa Tribune and WTSP have stories.

As the Florida Bar describes the incident, an Adams & Diaco paralegal happened to be in the same Tampa steakhouse where Campbell was having dinner, a few blocks from the condominium in which he lived. The paralegal spotted him, recognized him as a trial opponent and initiated a conversation with Adams, who wanted to know how much Campbell had been drinking. Adams then contacted Filthaut, and Filthaut contacted both Diaco and a Tampa police sergeant who was a personal friend of Filthaut’s. The sergeant, who was later fired over his role in the incident, reportedly arranged to send a police car to wait near the restaurant for Campbell to leave. When the attorney finally departed, he was arrested by the sergeant a short distance away.

Meanwhile, the paralegal sent information to Filthaut about what Campbell was doing at the restaurant, and Filthaut relayed it to the sergeant, the Florida Bar says. Repeated texts and phone calls occurred involving Adams, Diaco, Filthaut and others.

The next day, Campbell’s arrest made headlines, the trial was delayed for a day and Diaco reportedly told Fox 13, among other comments, that his firm had been working hard on the case at trial but Campbell “doesn’t seem to be doing the same and now we’re getting penalized for that.”

Diaco also commented on a previous drunken-driving case concerning Campbell and said, “His last DUI was almost twice the legal limit, he didn’t learn his lesson. Maybe this time he will.”

In the legal ethics complaints, the Florida Bar accuses the three attorneys of violating multiple attorney conduct rules including prohibitions against the use or threat of criminal charges solely to gain advantage in a civil matter; making it difficult for an individual to gain access to material that a lawyer should know is relevant to or needed for a proceeding; and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice,

“The events as portrayed in that document didn’t happen that way,” Gregory Kehoe, a lawyer representing Adams & Diaco, tells WTSP, adding: “They did nothing wrong.”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “DUI case dropped against lawyer who claimed he was set up, mid-trial, by opposing counsel”

Tampa Bay Times: “Dozen DUI cases dropped in fallout over fired Tampa police sergeant”

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