Sergeant was 'manipulated,' Tampa Police Department says - FOX 13 News

Sergeant was 'manipulated,' Tampa Police Department says

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A tweet by the Tampa Police Department over the weekend pretty much sums up how they feel about DUI Sgt. Ray Fernandez and his role in a scandal involving the MJ-Bubba Trial.

"We stand behind him, he was manipulated by a ‘friend,'" the tweet read.

The department won't talk to the media anymore about Sgt. Fernandez and the arrest of MJ's attorney Phil Campbell, but their tweets say a lot.

"It's not our jurisdiction to investigate the law firm, but the DUI Sgt. did his job & had no role in the alleged set up," one tweet read.

LINK: Tampa Police Department Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/TampaPD

The incident happened last Wednesday, January 23rd. Sgt. Fernandez testified on the stand he got a call from a friend, an attorney who also happens to be his son's godfather, and works at the law firm representing Bubba "the Love Sponge" Clem.

"I received a phone call from an attorney that worked downtown at the Bank of America building named Adam Filthaut. He informed me a gentleman that works in his building, giving me the name and the description of the car, was at Malio's, he was drinking," Fernandez said.

It was around 7:45 p.m. when Sgt. Fernandez instructed two of his DUI officers to drive over to Malio's and see if they could identify the car, and if there was any truth to the tip.

Sgt. Fernandez says he didn't know who Phil Campbell was at the time, or that Campbell and Adam Filthaut's law firm were involved in the case.

"I never knew Mr. Campbell before I stopped him, " Sgt. Fernandez testified.

Fernandez told the judge there was nothing inappropriate about the call. He says he gives his cell phone to many people in the community, including bartenders, bar managers, valets and anyone else who might run into someone who might drink and drive.

"I get phone calls from people, I get phone calls from bar managers. I get letters. I get pictures, I get all kinds of things that come in as intelligence that we act on," Fernandez said.

He was asked on the stand, "So nothing was inappropriate when you got this phone call?"

Fernandez responded, "To me it wasn't inappropriate at the time. No, I was acting on someone I thought was a drunk driver at a location."

Tweets from the Tampa Police Department show their disgust with being put in the middle of this case, and Chief Castor said so herself last week.

"It is unfortunate that the Tampa Police Department has been dragged into this circus. We stand behind our officer. He did what DUI officers do every day, and that is arrest impaired drivers," Castor said.

In a tweet over the weekend, the department said "It is very clear what happened."

But it really isn't clear -- because the woman at the center of the alleged set up, Melissa Personius, took the stand Friday and refused to answer many questions. Personius is a paralegal in the Adams & Diaco law firm, which is representing Bubba

"Did Mr. Diaco instruct you to buy any drinks for Mr. Campbell that evening?" MJ's attorney asked.

"I'll invoke my right to the 5th amendment," Personius responded.

"Did Mr. Diaco instruct you to get Mr. Campbell to drive your car the evening of January 23rd?"

Again Personius responded, "I invoke my right to the 5th amendment"

The Tampa Police Department says Sgt. Fernandez acted on a tip to prevent someone from possibly getting injured or killed in a car accident. But they say, unfortunately, he was used as a pawn.

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