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    State goes after radio shock jock

    Bubba the Love Sponge Clem is charged with a felony in the castration and killing of a boar. He says he did nothing wrong.

    By AMY HERDY

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2001


    TAMPA -- Standing inside the Orient Road Jail, a shaking Bubba the Love Sponge Clem handed his gold chain and the keys to his 2001 Volkswagen Passat to his attorney.

    "This is something new. I've never been arrested before," Clem said Thursday night as a crush of television cameras and reporters waited outside.

    Hillsborough prosecutors filed felony animal cruelty charges against Clem, 35, a radio personality at WXTB-97.9 FM, his producer and two listeners for the castration and slaughter of a wild boar in the radio station parking lot last month.

    "Of course (wild boars) are a nuisance in some parts of Florida, but someone should not be allowed to kill them, or any animal, for entertainment purposes," said Paul Rockhill, a Tampa police homicide detective who investigated the case.

    Joined by his attorney, his sister, Tara, and a family friend, Clem turned himself in to deputies and was booked on the third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. He was released a short time later on $10,000 bail.

    He said he did nothing wrong and intends to fight the charges.

    "They've made this the largest dog-and-pony show ever. It's really sad," Clem said. "I may have done something distasteful, but I certainly didn't do anything illegal. I am so ready to leave this town."

    Tara Clem, a marketing director, said she could not believe her brother had been charged.

    "I understand my brother's a shock jock, and a lot of people may not agree with his opinions," she said. "But it is theater of the mind, and it's freedom of speech. If you don't agree, turn off the channel. Don't listen, and don't judge."

    Also facing animal cruelty charges are Brent Hatley, 29, a producer at the station, known as 98 Rock; Paul Lauterberg, 35, a listener who brought the boar to the station and performed the castration and slaughter; and Daniel Brooks, 37, another listener who helped hold the boar.

    Hatley of St. Petersburg and Brooks of Pinellas Park turned themselves in Thursday night, and declined to speak to reporters. Lauterberg had not appeared at the jail at press time.

    Animal rights groups, which had persuaded dozens of advertisers to boycott the station and had demanded Clem's firing, embraced the decision to file criminal charges.

    "The public outcry was so great that it could not be ignored," said Melissa Waz, spokeswoman for the Tampa organization ADAPTT, Animals Deserve Absolute Protection Today and Tomorrow. "Even hunters, people who kill animals, were coming out and saying that this is wrong. They killed a pig for the entertainment of Bubba's listeners."

    The castration and slaughter occurred during Clem's popular morning show Feb. 27 as he encouraged listeners to bring roadkill to the parking lot for a barbecue.

    About 6:30 a.m., Lauterberg of Myakka City arrived with the boar in a cage. Nearly three hours later, as Hatley gave a play-by-play from a cell phone, the boar they called Andy was taken from the cage with a rope around his neck.

    As Brooks placed one knee on the animal's head and another on its hindquarters, Lauterberg castrated the boar. Then he slit the boar's throat with a 6-inch hunting knife.

    During the castration and killing, Clem played recorded pig squeals from the studio, as though it were being broadcast live.

    That, his attorney said, caused most of his problems.

    "I think a lot of people were upset by what they heard," said Ronald Cacciatore, a Tampa lawyer. "That caused all of this to be played up."

    Cacciatore said he felt confident the state would not be able to prove its case.

    Under case law, he said, a conviction of animal cruelty requires that someone have "specific intent to cause a cruel death or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering."

    "We've already gotten two veterinarians to say that's typically how it's done. While one could argue that this might be distasteful, this is not a crime," he said.

    The Federal Communications Commission is also investigating the killing to decide whether the broadcast was "obscene or indecent."

    Tom Taylor, an editor with M Street Daily, a radio industry publication, said the pig killing may have gone too far even for Clear Channel Communications, a company known for broadcasters who promote outrageous pranks.

    "I think they really touched a raw nerve," Taylor said. "It's my opinion that this has gone beyond what Bubba thought would happen."

    But Jerry Dell Colliano, publisher of Inside Radio, another industry daily that has been at odds with Clear Channel, said the company's practices allow pranks like the pig killing to happen.

    "It's a cheap publicity stunt, and that gung-ho, damn-the-torpedo approach is a Clear Channel station strategy," he said. "If it had been a manager (at another station), they would have fired the manager and they would have fired the air personality."

    Clem was suspended without pay for 15 days, but returned to the air this week. He said he plans to be on the air this morning.

    - Times staff writers David Karp, Angela Moore and Sue Carlton and Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

    -- Amy Herdy can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or herdy@sptimes.com.

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