TAMPA, FL. -- A mostly female Tampa jury will determine if Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem and the Bubba Radio Network intentionally harmed Todd "MJ" Schnitt and wife Michelle Schnitt by comments made over the last five years on shock jock Clem's radio shows.
Update: This afternoon, about 4:30 p.m., after just a few hours deliberation, the jury determined Todd and Michelle Schnitt did not prevail in proving they were defamed by Bubba Clem or the Bubba Radio Network.
The Schnitt's had claimed and produced witnesses for the last two weeks that Mr. Clem had harmed them professionally and personally by his words and images produced through Clem's Bubble The Love Sponge radio program beginning in 2008.
The Schnitt's closing arguments were made this morning by attorney Joseph Campbell, Jr. who was arrested last week in Tampa for driving under the influence. Witness testimony was interrupted briefly last week as the court heard arguments on a Motion For Mistrial. The Judge denied the motion.
Michelle Schnitt, a former attorney with the State Attorney's office in Tampa says her reputation was tarnished by Clems on-air comments and photos posted on a website. Todd Schnitt, also known as M.J. Kelli, claims Clem tried to hurt his radio show ratings, and comments Clem made resulted in harassment and an egging of the Schnitt's home and vehicle.
Judge James D. Arnold of Florida's 13th Judicial Circuit told jurors this morning that the determination of guilt for the charges depend on whether the statements and images produced by Clem were false and if Clem and his radio broadcasting company intended to harm the Schnitts.
The Judge previously determined that although Todd Schnitt is a "public" person as a well known radio broadcaster, his wife Michelle is only a private person, despite claims by Clem that she is well known by the public, having appeared numerous times on Schnitt's radio program. This would make if a bit easier to find guilt if the jurors find Clem's statements about Mrs. Schnitt false and harmful to her.
Judge Arnold reminded the jury that what the attorneys tell them on closing arguments this morning is not evidence, and told the jury that Plaintiff and Defendant's attorney has equal time to present their closing statement the jury.
Clem claims that he was using hyperbole, or exaggeration in calling Mrs. Schnitt a "whore" and making fun of Todd Schmitt's hair and stature. Clem also made statements as part of what he called "radio wars" alleging Schnitt had violated FCC rules on "plugola," allegedly receiving products and services illegally, and saying Schnitt may be under investigation by the government.
Clem also claimed that there was a conspiracy between the Schnitt's and State Attorney Mark Ober to go after Clem criminally ten years ago over a wild hog butchering stunt the Clem show did. The case went to trial, but Clem was not found guilty of the animal cruelty charges.
Clem claims a right to free speech under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution and had a right to "fair" commenting about the Schnitts, and his audience had a right to hear his comments. Clem says his statements were exaggerations, "name calling." just part of his style of radio broadcasting.
Photo: Defendant Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem on witness stand (credit: 13th Judicial Circuit / Fox 13 Tampa Bay)