Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Trial Begins For Tampa Shock Jock Defamation Case

Jury Selection Underway In MJ Vs. Bubba The Love Sponge

TAMPA, FL. -- The court case between Tampa area radio talk show hosts is filling the airwaves and print in South Florida as Todd Schnitt presents his defamation case against Bubba Clem and Cox Radio in a 13th Judicial Circuit courtroom for the next three weeks.

(Photo: Court As Attorneys Wait During Court Recess)

Bubba "The Love Sponge" is accused by Schnitt, known on the radio as "MJ" for making defamatory remarks against himself and his wife Michelle Schnitt, a former assistant State's Attorney.

Jury selection is underway in the courtroom today with about 1000 citizens summoned to appear for jury duty, Circuit Judge James D. Arnold, presiding. Only about one-third of the folks summoned actually appeared, about typical for jury pool appearances in the Tampa/St. Petersburg courtrooms.

The allegations of defamation and threats started around 2008, Schnitt says as Bubba Clem is accused of name calling, including calling Michelle Schnitt a "whore" and MJ a "midget."  Schnitt claims he and his wife have been personally and professionally damaged by Clem's on-air comments.

On his morning show, Clem claims the trial is "frivolous" and a waste of time and money and apologized to the jury pool members for having to spend their time in the courtroom on this case. Clem said Schmitt is a multi-millionaire who just had his feelings hurt and says both Schmitt and his wife are public figures and therefore can be parodied and made fun of on the radio.

In 2007, the FCC levied what amounts to a $755,000 fine against four Clear Channel radio stations that carried the Bubba The Love Sponge Show for allegedly including graphic discussions about sex and drugs that according to the FCC were "designed to pander to, titillate and shock listeners"

At the time of Schmitt's allegations against Clem, both were Tampa Bay morning show DJs; Schnitt on WFLZ 93.3 and Clem on WHPT 102.5. Schnitt now has a syndicated afternoon radio show heard on 970 AM in Tampa, while Clem continues his syndicated morning show, heard in Fort Myers on WRXK 96.1.

Photo credit: Fox13 Tampa Bay/13th Judicial Circuit Court

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