As the news spread that one of MJ Schnitt's attorneys had been arrested for DUI right in the middle of the highly-charged trial, another story was quickly unfolding behind the scenes.
At first, MJ's legal team had no idea the woman attorney Phil Campbell was drinking with was a paralegal who worked for the Diaco law firm -- the same firm that was representing Bubba Clem in the defamation case.
Sgt. Ray Fernandez took the phone call that led to Campbell's arrest.
"What he told me is that this guy goes to Malio's and that he drinks and that he drives home, " Sgt. Fernandez testified.
Fernandez testified the call came from his friend, an attorney at the Diaco firm. The tip came on his cell phone, and it wasn't the first time.
"I also received this phone call prior, a month prior, also where we also tried to locate that defendant and we didn't, " Sgt. Fernandez said.
In a dramatic turn, MJ's attorney's claimed the Campbell arrest was a setup. And now sources tell FOX 13 it was Sgt. Fernandez himself who alerted them that he was "used" by a friend.
The Tampa Police Department stood by Sgt. Fernandez and later tweeted he was "manipulated."
Attorney Kevin Hayslett specializes in DUI cases.
"I've never in 22 years of doing this, have ever heard of a police officer who made a DUI arrest based on a confidential or known tipster, claim afterward that they were duped into making the arrest," Hayslett said.
Hayslett says as long as there was a basis for the traffic stop and probable cause for the arrest, how or why an officer got involved in a DUI stop is irrelevant.
"I'm sure he gets a lot of tips and he may have gotten them from that person before, and it doesn't make the traffic stop bad, or doesn't make the arrest bad provided all the other elements were made by this officer," Hayslett said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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