Battle heats up over arson charges and MJ Morning Show radio stunt
Tampa, Florida – There’s more heat over the Hillsborough State Attorney’s decision on whether to file felony arson charges against 93.3 radio personality M.J. Kelli, members of his morning show and Clear Channel Broadcasting.
It stems from a radio stunt that went bad in December when the morning show tried to fry a frozen turkey in boiling oil which was in a van. The van caught fire, the fire department had to be called and a firefighter was injured during the incident.
The state Fire Marshal’s Office recommended in January that arson charges be filed, but nothing has happened yet.
People on the radio show worried about charges the morning the fire happened, as a staffer asked MJ if the incident constituted as arson. Attorneys for the radio personality and Clear Channel say that’s not a concern.
Attorney Ron Cacciatore says if you burn your own property and don’t try to make a false claim, it is not arson. Cacciatore says it was a stunt that got out of hand.
But John Corbett, the Chief of Fire Investigations and Arson in the State Fire Marshal’s Office, says it is illegal to burn your property or the property of others. That is why the state fire marshal’s office and the Tampa Fire Department says they are perplexed why arson charges have not been filed on an investigation that has been completed since January.
Corbett says they did a thorough investigation and were able to determine arson was committed. State Attorney Mark Ober’s office says because it is an open investigation, he can’t comment.
While the state fire marshal’s office and the Tampa Fire Department are blasting Ober’s office for not hauling M.J. into court to face felony charges, the attorneys for the radio personality are blasting the fire officials for overstepping their bounds.
Attorney John Fitzgibbons, who represents MJ, is fired up about the fire agency’s anger. Fitzgibbons says he doesn’t think he has seen as unprofessional conduct in his career as what the fire department is engaged in.
Fitzgibbons says fire officials are in the wrong to air the dirty laundry in public by criticizing Ober’s office. Fitzgibbons, a former federal prosecutor, says if he was still working for the feds he would call them down to his office and give them the biggest dressing down they had ever seen.
Both Tampa Fire and the fire marshal’s office say it is not abuse of their offices or a waste of public time to push for the charges, since a firefighter got hurt. Corbett says if somebody gets injured in public safety it is not a waste of time to push for criminal charges. Corbett adds, the van didn’t miraculously catch fire or set itself on fire.
Now defense attorneys are trying to put out another fire before it gets out of control and burns their clients.