Legal Ethics

Paralegal's ex testifies, says she admitted DUI setup of opposing trial lawyer

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So far, the Florida Bar hasn’t introduced a controversial cellphone video into evidence against three lawyers accused of helping to set up opposing trial counsel for a drunken-driving arrest in 2013.

But bar counsel did call as a legal ethics trial witness this week the man who took the video: Kristopher Personius, the ex-husband of a paralegal at the center of the disciplinary case against three Adams & Diaco attorneys.

Already divorced at the time, Kristopher Personius was nonetheless still living with Melissa Personius and says she told him, when she came home after the 2013 driving-under-the-influence arrest of C. Philip Campbell, that it had been a setup, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Weeks earlier, she said, partner Robert Adams had told her to keep an eye on Campbell to see if he might be drinking, Kristopher Personius testified. Other witnesses said she flirted with Campbell when she spotted him at a Tampa steakhouse one evening during a high-profile trial against Adams & Diaco lawyers and insisted on buying Campbell drinks. Then she persuaded him to get behind the wheel of her car.

Meanwhile, there had been a flurry of calls and texts between the paralegal, Adams, two other lawyers from his firm and a Tampa police sergeant then in charge of the department’s DUI unit, who has since been fired. Campbell was stopped by police near the restaurant, and,after his DUI arrest his trial bag remained in the paralegal’s vehicle. The DUI case against Campbell was later dropped, because of the involvement of Adams & Diaco personnel.

Kristopher Personius said his ex told him she called Adams, who told her keep watching Campbell until Tampa police were “in place.” And, Kristopher Personius said, his ex was told by another law firm partner said she would be rewarded for her help.

“She told me that Stephen Diaco whispered in her ear, ‘You get paid really good now. Wait till after this is done,’ ” Kristopher Personius said.

At another point he testified that his ex had expressly admitted the setup, Bay News 9 reports.

“She was instructed to basically set this guy up,” said Kristopher Personius. “To get Phil Campbell to drink more, get Phil Campbell to stay where the cop was in place, um … she made him drive. Her exact words was “I got him, I made him drive my car.”

Lawyers for Adams, Diaco and Adam Filthaut suggested Kristopher Personius was testifying in retaliation for a wage-garnishment case initiated by his ex, and he admitted on the stand that he was annoyed with her, the Times reported.

“If she had just left me alone and let me see my kids, we wouldn’t be here,” he said.

Adams was the only law firm attorney to testify in the case, and he said Melissa Personius got a $10,000 bonus from his firm. Kristopher Personius said she was additionally given cash by Adams and a credit card.

Melissa Personius, who was also a witness in the case, and respondents Diaco and Filthaut all took the Fifth when called to testify earlier this week.

A police officer who arrested Campbell in 2013 testified on Friday that he had had been told by the DUI sergeant to look for Campbell, another Tampa Bay Times article reports.

Related coverage: “2 lawyers and paralegal take Fifth; name partner says he didn’t direct DUI setup of trial opponent”

See also: “As libel trial losers battle $1M legal bill, FBI probes claimed mid-trial DUI set-up of their lawyer”

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