No criminal charges against M.J. after radio station fire
Tampa, Florida — Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober will not file criminal charges against members of the WFLZ M.J. Morning Show.
Although the state fire marshal has been recommending Felony charges for seven months, the state attorney decided not to go along. The incident involved a radio stunt where the morning show tried to fry a frozen turkey in a cooker full of oil that was in a van. A fire started and the Tampa Fire Department had to put it out.
While the WFLZ radio personalities were worried about being arrested for arson the morning of the fire, State Attorney Mark Ober says while these actions were irresponsible outrageous and offensive, it does not fit the legal definition of arson. However, Ober says it does violate the Hillsborough County Ordinance for open burning without a permit, which is a second degree misdemeanor.
Instead of filing criminal charges, the state is allowing four Clear Channel employees, including M.J. Kelli aka Todd Schnitt, to do community service in a diversion program.
We asked M.J.’s attorney, John Fitzgibbons, if this had been a John Doe, would the outcome be the same? He said, “Absolutely.”
And while internal memos show the program director of the radio station said people will either laugh or die, so it will be good on TV, Fitzgibbons and the Clear Channel attorney have been saying it was a waste of time to pursue criminal charges.
However, the State Fire Marshal’s Office disagrees. John Corbett points to the fact that a Tampa firefighter was injured in the incident. Corbett says it is not a waste of time to investigate any time a public safety official is injured.
But Fitzgibbons questions whether the firefighter was really injured. He says, in one report, the firefighter indicates he was injured while pulling out the hose. Another he indicates a different injury, which is inconsistent. In addition, Fitzgibbons says there is a video that exists that indicates the firefighter wasn’t injured. The State Attorney report agrees with Fitzgibbons.
And while the report does note a history of M.J. fire-related incidents since 2002, Fitzgibbons says his client and the station did nothing wrong. He says radio stations have been engaged in stunts for years and he maintains WFLZ took precautions, but something went wrong.