Fired Tampa DUI Sergeant Fights to Get his Job Back

The Tampa Police Department DUI team supervisor who was fired after allegations about his conduct in the much publicized DUI arrest of attorney Phil Campbell earlier this year is attempting to get his job back. He has just had a grievance meeting with Assistant Police Chief John Newman at the Tampa Town Hall with several others present, although his own attorney did most of the talking.

Sergeant Fitzgerald and his attorney, Chip Purcell, think he did nothing wrong when he arrested Campbell after apparently getting a tip off from someone he knew who was working for Campbell’s opposing side in the Todd MJ Schnitt vs Bubba the Love Sponge Clem legal wrangle.

The fight to get Fernandez reinstated has apparently only just started and could take a year before a final decision is made. There are several organizations involved in the investigation into the happenings that took place the day that Campbell was arrested. These include the FBI, the Police Department itself and the Florida Bar. The latter is particularly looking at the conduct of the two key lawyers at the Adams and Diaco law firm that had been representing Bubba at the time of the arrest – Adam Filthault and Steve Diaco.

Adam Filthault, one of the firm’s lawyers, just happens to be Sergeant Fernandez’s son’s godfathers and the two obviously know each other well. The Tampa Police Department has said that 92 text messages were sent between Filthault, Fernandez and Ms. Personius, the paralegal working for Adams and Diaco who had met Phil Campbell at Mario’s Bar the night he was arrested. It was Ms. Personius’s car that was being driven by Campbell when he was stopped by Fernandez and another police officer and then subsequently arrested.

Purcell said that it would have been impossible to send 92 text messages just about where and what Phil Campbell had been doing that night. He said that they also exchanged news about paintball and their kids.

Chief Jane Castor of the Police Department maintains that Sergeant Fernandez abused his power as a police officer during the arrest and allowed personal relationships he had to influence him.

Fernandez’s attorney said that the meeting at the Town Hall went well and felt “very encouraged” about the prospects of his client being reinstated.

The Tampa Police Department now has two weeks to make a decision after reviewing the case. If it still refuses to reinstate the ex Sergeant, the whole affair goes to another hearing with the city, then an independent arbitrator, whose decision is supposed to be binding.

Meanwhile, Phil Campbell’s own attorney in the DUI case is not at all happy with what he considered went on before and after his client’s arrest. He thinks that some of the lawyers involved in what he believes was a set up by the Adams And Diaco firm should be disbarred after being investigated. The odds don’t necessarily favor this. The Florida Bar apparently investigates nearly 700 lawyers every year in the state, with around half of them facing some sort of disciplinary action. However, only a handful, about 1 in 1000, actually gets disbarred every year.

This whole story started with a radio personality’s reputation at stake. It has now mushroomed out of proportion and several reputations now hinge on the resolution of the Fernandez case. This includes Sergeant Fernandez himself, the lawyers at the Adams and Diaco firm and the Tampa Police Department. Last, but not least, are the dozens of people who have been arrested as a result of Sergeant Fernandez for DUI over the years whose cases are also being reviewed. The story will be continued to be watched by many people in Tampa and across the state in the weeks and months to come.


Sergeant in High profile Tampa attorney DUI Arrest Fired by Police Chief

If you are a Tampa resident, in fact, even if you are from anywhere else in Florida you may remember the DUI arrest of Phil Campbell, the Tampa attorney who was representing Todd M.J.-Schnitt in his lawsuit against Bubba the Love Sponge early in the year.

The case was memorable at the time, partly because of the acrimonious and completely public series of exchanges over the radio between the two shock jocks, but also because the police officer who was present at the arrest of Campbell was accused by Campbell’s firm of having inside knowledge of Campbell’s whereabouts at the time.

In fact, just to recap a little on the case, Phil Campbell had been drinking one night with a female paralegal who worked for the rival law firm representing Mr. Campbell’s client’s adversary. Campbell claimed not to have known who the woman, Melissa Personius, was at the time or the significance of having a drink with her. The police officer who stopped Campbell, allegedly after observing him driving erratically, later acknowledged to have been informed about Campbell’s tete a tete with Ms Personius by his friend at the Adams and Diaco law firm, Adam Filthaut, who was working for Bubba.

Mr. Campbell’s DUI arrest was subsequently dropped by the state attorney, partly because of lack of sufficient evidence and also because of the publicity about Sergeant Fernandez’s motives. Campbell had not performed well at the sobriety tests carried out after he had been stopped, but claimed this was because of medication he had been taking. He refused to take a breathalyzer test, so the prosecution had limited real evidence with which to prosecute him. Theoretically, a DUI charge depends on being able to prove that the arrestee had more than 0.08% blood alcohol content at the time they were driving. Prosecution is possible, although more difficult to prove, if there are no results from a chemical test available to indicate the BAC of the person arrested.

Later this year, the FBI apparently took an interest in the police officer’s story about his relationship with Mr. Filthaut at the Adams and Diaco firm and what exactly he said or did not say after Campbell’s arrest. The FBI investigation is not yet over, but the Tampa Police Chief, Jane Castor, has said that there is sufficient information available to suggest that Fernandez had been misleading about his role in the Campbell arrest. She cited the fact that Fernandez had claimed that 95 text messages, all apparently between the Sergeant and  at the Diaco firm had been “accidentally erased”. Chief Castor said that this really was not credible.

Sergeant Fernandez’s own legal counsel is understandably unhappy about the dismissal and is prepared to appeal against it.

It is highly unlikely that many Tampa residents are so famous that they are pursued by police officers who know what they have been drinking and who they have been drinking with. However, the developments in this case do reinforce the fact that DUI arrests are not always as clear cut as the arresting officers would like to make out. In fact, you don’t have to be famous to be arrested for DUI in Tampa under circumstances which can be disputed by a good DUI lawyer.

DUI is a serious offense in this state and there are harsh penalties for anyone who is convicted. Even a first offense can land someone in jail, in addition to paying a substantial fine, lose their license for a specified period and pay higher insurance rates as a result of the conviction. A DUI conviction is a criminal conviction and will stay on your record for a very long time. It could affect your job, your ability to seek promotion or change your career, or seek credit.

Don’t let a DUI arrest intimidate you into accepting a charge that you have not committed. Fight your DUI charge by hiring an experienced and aggressive Tampa DUI attorney. A good attorney will ensure your constitutional rights are upheld and that you get the justice that you deserve, not one that has been concocted by law enforcement officers who just want to get a conviction.