A Most-Wanted Attorney
As the afternoon sun wanes, F. Lee Bailey squints his light blue eyes and peers from his back yard onto the dazzling Intracoastal Waterway. Seeing him there in his trademark cowboy boots, you understand why he is often described as a legal lion. A short, potbellied man with a large, gray, Irish head, he is a bit leonine in appearance. With 67 years behind it, his face is jowly yet still square, and his chin, with its perfect cleft, is still powerful. His large nose looks as if it were cut from smooth stone. He's an American icon, and he looks the part.
Like any jungle king, he has an enviable spot in the world, a $1.5 million waterfront home on the exclusive island of Manalapan near West Palm Beach. But his abode is modest compared to the ornate palaces across the water, some of which are 20 times the size of an average middle-class house.
"They call it Billionaires Row," he says in his familiar, deep-and-scratchy voice. But this isn't the same courtroom curmudgeon described by his friend Patrick McKenna as having "balls made of cement." Bailey now seems more like a kid in a toy store. Smitten with the fantastic wealth surrounding him, his voice quickens as he lists his neighbors. "Don King lives in one of them," Bailey says, eyeing one of the modern castles. "Yanni lives over there. The Sara Lee president has got one. Hartley Peavey, who makes speakers, lives out there, too. And you see that building way out there in the distance? That's the Ritz Carlton hotel."
If Bailey's house and its spectacular view aren't convincing-enough evidence of the good life, he has color brochures inside to prove it. One includes a magazine story about his airplane, the Bailey Bullet, and another is replete with pictures of the glorious 74-foot yacht he used to own, the Spellbound. (These days he settles for a 22-foot boat that he says he "uses to go to dinner.") For land travel he has two Mercedes, including a beautifully refurbished 1968 two-door model.
And he has underlings, to whom he sometimes refers as his minions. There's a jack of all trades named Chuck Herzperg, who can often be found on the Bailey premises doing everything from planning flights in the Bullet to fixing the plumbing. There's Bailey's computer guru, Howard Harris, and crack investigator McKenna. And there's Bailey's sister Nancy, who manages his West Palm Beach law office and helps to handle his increasingly hectic business affairs.
The minions, the house, the swimming pool, the plane, Billionaires Row, the cars... It's enough to drive a prosecutor crazy. Federal courts have been trying to snatch Bailey's wealth ever since he snatched millions of dollars from the government five years ago. First it was $20 million in stock the lawyer tried to keep from a case involving a very rich French drug smuggler named Claude Duboc. While Bailey made international headlines defending O.J. Simpson, he was living large on Duboc's money and buying the Manalapan house.
In 1998 Bailey took another $2 million that he should have handed over to Uncle Sam. This time it was a chunk of the fortune of William and Chantal McCorkle, who had hired Bailey to defend them on fraud charges stemming from an infomercial scheme.
In both cases Bailey obstinately insisted on keeping the money, reasoning that he earned it for his legal work. And the fights over those pots of gold have caused Bailey much suffering. He was imprisoned for six weeks and went into debt in 1996 after failing to repay the millions he took from the Duboc fortune. (Ultimately that case cost him his beloved Spellbound.) Two months ago a Florida Bar hearing officer recommended the state supreme court disbar him. Last month he was held in contempt of court in Orlando for taking the McCorkle millions. And the U.S. Attorney's Office is now considering civil action against Bailey for everything he has.
Taking possession of Bailey's assets, however, won't be easy. In fact federal prosecutors have already said in court that it appears impossible to wring anything of value from America's most famous lawyer. The house, the plane, the high life -- it's all an illusion, encumbered with more debt than it's worth. And there's more Bailey magic: The government doesn't even know about the boat and 1968 Mercedes, which Bailey told New Times he owned. In fact Bailey testified under oath in Orlando last month that he had only a 1983 Mercedes and no boat.
The former Marine pilot is not only fighting to keep his own wealth, he's also suing to regain the Duboc fortune. His case will likely go to court this winter, and if Bailey succeeds, he will land a $20 million payday. "In litigation someone always loses, but they don't always stay the loser," he says. "Those who give up, however, always lose. I'll fight as long as I have anything to fight with."
Though Bailey has some potentially damaging ammunition to use against the government, his odds of winning seem as long as his former yacht. Judges have already repeatedly ruled against him, making this latest lawsuit appear to be nothing more than a desperate grab for drug money, a stab at keeping his spot in the shadow of Billionaires Row. Has greed finally driven him to distraction? With Bailey, who seems to be equal parts bluster and brilliance, it's hard to tell. Much of America felt he was bound to lose when he took on the O.J. Simpson case, too.
Bailey wrote in his memoirs 30 years ago that, when a good pilot is in trouble, he "climbs like hell, knowing he'll never get hurt as long as his plane doesn't hit the ground." In the legal dogfight of his life, Bailey is ascending. Only time will tell if he's ultimately going to crash and burn. When Francis Lee Bailey Jr., who's always gone by his middle name, was in grade school, he was sent home for cheating on a math test. The evidence, he says, was circumstantial; his work showed no calculations. To this day Bailey
insists he was wronged, that he simply had a gift for working out complex computation in his head. Bailey recalls returning to school with his mother and arguing he couldn't have cheated, because he was the only student who had answered every question correctly. Case closed.
While the story can't be verified, it's pure Bailey. He started by showing up authority figures and has been showing up witnesses, prosecutors, and judges ever since. That teacher was only the first in a long line of people to accuse him of cheating, but Bailey has never confessed and has always offered a bullish argument in return.
His tenacious competitiveness dates back to childhood days playing hockey on frozen ponds in Waltham, Massachusetts. "I can tell you he was a great athlete and he was, um, very aggressive," says J. Albert Johnson, a lifelong friend and former Bailey law partner. "He always played to win."
Combine that drive with Bailey's analytical mind, his storied oratory, and his prodigious memory, and it's no wonder he has secured himself a spot in the pantheon of great American lawyers. In public school, however, Bailey's gifts brought him only grief. "Because Lee was so bright, it was impossible for him to sit still in a public school," his younger sister Nancy explains, "They just weren't challenging him. Every day my mother [got] a call from the principal."
Indeed Bailey's mom, Grace Mitchell, had a difficult time handling young Lee, especially after her divorce from Lee's father, an ad salesman. So Mitchell sent her 12-year-old son to the Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire and then to Kimble Union Academy, a prep school. Aided by scholarships Bailey had his first brush with wealth there.
He entered Harvard in 1950 but dropped out two years later to join the Marines. At a base in Cherry Point, North Carolina, Bailey flew fighter jets and worked in the unit's legal office. After his discharge from the Marines, he enrolled at Boston University Law School (which accepted him even though he lacked a college degree). He supported himself by toiling as a private investigator. In 1960 he graduated first in his class and almost instantly made a name for himself in the Boston area by winning an acquittal for George Edgerly, who was accused of dismembering his wife. Bailey won the case by questioning lie detector results. It was then, he says, that the art of the polygraph became his specialty.
A year later, at age 28, Bailey made the national scene when he took the case of Sam Sheppard, an Ohio doctor convicted of the 1954 murder of his wife. While working to free Sheppard, Bailey displayed not only startling legal skills but also a gift for self-promotion. He found his way onto television numerous times, including appearances on talk shows with Mike Douglas and Johnny Carson. Doctor Sheppard was acquitted in 1966.
Gaining early fame was Bailey's destiny, says Roy Black, another famous lawyer. Black says his friend is simply a genius. "Lee reads everything involved in a case, and then he can go in and cross-examine someone for six hours... without a single note," Black says. "And the witness is reduced to a cube of Jell-O. He just has the ability to keep track of it all while he's jousting in court. That's why he rose to the top."
After Sheppard, Bailey represented a string of infamous clients, beginning with his unsuccessful 1967 defense of Albert Desalvo, who was believed to be the Boston Strangler. In 1971 Bailey took on the case of Ernest Medina, commander of the troops who slaughtered more than 100 civilians at My Lai. The acquittal, the lawyer says, was his finest achievement, along with work on the Sheppard case. That victory was followed in 1975 by a bitter defeat in the Patty Hearst case. Hearst's conviction was the low point of his career, Bailey says, not only because he lost but also because public opinion went against him. "It was discouraging, and it had a very unpleasant aftermath," he recalls.
Things quieted down a bit after that, but Bailey didn't need big cases to fuel his celebrity. He was already firmly established as a star. He did every talk show from Merv Griffin to Johnny Carson, served as the on-air legal consultant for Good Morning America, and briefly hosted a prime-time television show called Lie Detector. Bailey had teetered on the brink of appearing a complete crackpot in 1969, when he did a TV show that examined rumors Paul McCartney was dead. Traveling the country in his planes, Bailey also gave hundreds of lectures and speeches, usually for a hefty fee. He also did a Smirnoff vodka ad and wrote several books.
"Celebrity," he explains, "feeds upon itself."
His outlandish fame and success, however, couldn't curb his penchant for trouble. He steamrolled through three marriages, leaving three sons to grow up in broken families. "I don't want to say I outgrew them," he says of the wives, "but my life just got too hectic for them." In 1982 his picture was splashed in newspapers across the country after he was charged with DUI. He was later acquitted with the help of his (then) close friend, attorney Robert Shapiro.
Even as his star rose, Bailey regularly dueled for his legal life. In 1970 a Massachusetts court censured him for carping about a courtroom loss during an appearance on The Tonight Show. The judge's opinion of Bailey: "He is unwilling to concede that he could have been wrong; he believes that he alone should decide if "special circumstances' exist to justify a departure from the established norms.... These attitudes bespeak a self-esteem of such proportions as to challenge description... [and] a philosophy of extreme egocentricity... involving the use of the news media."
In 1971 he was in trouble again, this time for writing a letter to a judge in which he accused prosecutors of bribing witnesses to give false testimony about a murder. The New Jersey Supreme Court suspended him for a year from practicing in the state, writing that Bailey "treats as justified a course of action completely foreign to and destructive of our system of justice."
Much more serious problems came in 1973, when he was indicted in Orlando for promoting a self-help program called Dare to Be Great that was owned by a client named Glenn Turner (who was later convicted of fraud). In 1975 Bailey was acquitted after pleading his own case.
What some considered a pattern of ethical lapses and possible criminal misconduct, others saw as persecution of a brilliant attorney by bitter prosecutors and judges. "All through the years," comments fellow celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz, "Bailey has been picked on by the establishment. It's been said that in England barristers get knighted and in America they get indicted."
Adds Black, "The world is full of people who are jealous of Lee Bailey."
More trouble came in the 1980s, when Bailey bought a house on Great Harbour Cay and defended thenBahamian Prime Minister Lynden Pindling, who died last month, against accusations of accepting payoffs from smugglers. And he befriended a suspected smuggler and businessman named Henry Asher, who remains his close ally. Bailey's life in the Bahamas, however, ended when his house mysteriously burned to the ground. Bailey says drug dealers set the blaze, but rumors persist that islanders wanted to chase away the lawyer because he was assisting the drug trade by defending Pindling.
After that disaster Bailey and his fourth wife, Patricia, a former flight attendant, moved to South Florida. At the time, in 1985, he had offices in Boston, New York, Miami, and West Palm Beach. He lived a less-than-sensational life until 1994, when Claude Duboc and O.J. Simpson entered his life.As Bailey sits behind a desk in a rather spare office in his house on a recent Tuesday afternoon, his legendary memory fails him. He can't recollect the name of a major client whom he represented in the early 1990s. But he vividly remembers the client's money. The first $120,000 came in the form of cashier's checks. The second $120,000 was cold cash, delivered in a paper bag the night before the client's trial. Bailey clearly recalls telling an associate who held the sack: "Embrace it warmly, because we won't have it long." Bailey says he knew it was illicit drug proceeds and thus subject to forfeiture. "There are a lot of cases out there where the government has chased attorneys' fees, and this time I had to concede they had a good case," he admits.
After prosecutors sued, he grudgingly agreed to return $145,000 of the drug money. The client's name, incidentally, was Mario Lloyd, a cocaine kingpin from Chicago. Lloyd was sentenced to life in prison despite Bailey's help.
Bailey has always loved cases with whopping fees. So it's not surprising he leaped at the chance to represent Claude Duboc, a French-American drug lord who built a $100 million fortune. In 1994 federal prosecutors charged Duboc with drug smuggling and portrayed him as the financial brains behind a hashish and marijuana pipeline running from Pakistan to Canada.
Robert Shapiro, Duboc's first attorney, offered Bailey a piece of the action when a judge moved the case from Los Angeles to Tallahassee. Then Bailey came up with a plan: Duboc would plead guilty and voluntarily hand over his fortune to the government. Such overwhelming generosity, the lawyer thought, would prompt the judge, Maurice Paul, to go light on the smuggler.
Bailey testified during a recent Florida Bar hearing in Naples that he used a "carrot-and-stick" approach with prosecutors. All Duboc's assets were in foreign countries, including roughly $35 million in cash and estates in France worth more than $30 million. Because the government is bound by treaties to announce the seizure of drug assets and share them, Bailey said he would have a much easier time bringing the fortune to America. "They said, "Oh, we're so lucky to have you. We don't know anything about these foreign deals,'" Bailey says of the prosecutors. "I mean, these are guys from Tallahassee, Florida. I spoke French, and I was very familiar with the Continent."
Once he'd whetted the prosecutors' appetites for the money, Bailey brought up the issue of attorney's fees. The deal they came up with has been derided by numerous legal scholars as both shady and irresponsible. It centered on 602,000 shares of Duboc-owned stock, worth $6 million at the time, in a pharmaceutical company called Biochem Pharma. Prosecutors would transfer ownership of the stock to Bailey, who would use it to pay expenses related to selling Duboc's property in France. Once Duboc was sentenced and all his assets were liquidated, Bailey could also draw his legal fees and expenses from the sale of the stock, but those payments would have to be approved by Judge Paul.
Duboc swore the Biochem stock was about to skyrocket in value. Both Bailey and lead prosecutor David McGee believed him. McGee, who is now in private practice in Pensacola, says it was agreed upon that any profit from the Biochem Pharma shares would go the government. McGee contends the stock was an investment for taxpayers. The judge, Duboc, and Duboc's other attorneys all confirm that claim.
Bailey didn't see it that way. He contends any profit above the original $6 million value of the stock was to go to him personally. And, he says, the government is prohibited from speculating in the market. "They all agreed that the downside risk was mine, but they somehow had the notion that I agreed to give them any profits," Bailey complains. "I would never make that agreement."
The truth may never be known, because the agreement was never put in writing. The only piece of paper memorializing the deal is a document showing that the government wired the stock to Bailey's Swiss account on May 19, 1994. Bailey then convinced the bank to give him a line of credit against the stock to use in trying to sell Duboc's homes, one of which was valued at $24 million and located on the Mediterranean. But the mansion never was sold, a fact that Duboc would come to blame on Bailey's inordinate attention to another client at the time, O.J. Simpson. Bailey, at Shapiro's request, flew out to Los Angeles to help Simpson on June 14. Three days later came the Bronco chase.
Duboc, left stewing in a Tallahassee cell, has claimed he rarely saw Bailey after that. But he did see something else: the Biotech stock price rising in most dramatic fashion.Bailey doesn't just talk about the O.J. Simpson case, he relives it. He jumps up from his desk at home and retrieves a framed copy of the front page of the Palm Beach Post from October 4, 1995, the day after the not-guilty verdict. A picture shows Simpson, Bailey, Shapiro, and Johnnie Cochran at the very moment the verdict was read. "This is a picture you've seen round the world that tells the whole story of the Simpson verdict," he says with some excitement. "I knew what was in the envelope."
He points at himself: "You have kind of a Cheshire cat look here, but not very excited." Then he directs attention to the defendant, who has relief written on his face: "O.J. knew what was in the envelope, but it was awful good to hear it read. He's, "Right on, man.'"
Then he moves on to Cochran, who looks perplexed: "Johnnie's not sure he believes it." When it comes to Shapiro, who is shown walking away in what appears to be a huff, Bailey says, "Shapiro is mad as hell, and he's leaving the room to do an interview to denounce the whole defense team and his client."
Bailey explains that he knew the verdict ahead of time because the jury spent only eight minutes out between its final request for information and its return with a verdict. "There was only time to check off not guilty. So I went outside and said on NBC, "You have an acquittal in the envelope,'" Bailey recalls. "O.J.'s secretary says, "Please run down there and tell that to O.J. It'll make him feel better.'"
When Bailey approached Simpson, "he was grinning like an ape," the lawyer recalls.
"You don't look very worried," Bailey remarked.
"I know what the verdict is," Simpson replied.
"How do you know?"
"Every deputy sheriff in the jail has asked me for an autograph, and several have told me they won't get another chance," Bailey says Simpson answered.
Bailey clearly relishes this memory. His key contribution to the trial was cross-examination of former detective Mark Fuhrman. Bailey led Fuhrman to say under oath that he'd never used the word nigger, a lie that helped to destroy the detective's credibility. But does Bailey really believe Simpson is innocent of the slayings? "I am absolutely satisfied beyond any doubt not only that he would not, but he could not and did not, kill them," Bailey says. The proof of "affable, good-old" O.J.'s innocence, Bailey says, is in his demeanor on the airplane after the killings and the time line, which he says excludes Simpson from possibility. The ex-football star was framed, and the bloody glove was likely planted by Fuhrman, he says. Bailey says he has one chief ambition left in life: find the real killers.
Less well-known than Bailey's interrogation of Fuhrman is that the Palm Beach lawyer wasn't paid a dime for his work in the case. Shapiro refused to share with Bailey the $1.2 million Simpson gave him, saying that Bailey was a "volunteer." Bailey, however, was unconcerned; he was flush with cash at the time. Court documents show that, from June 1994 through January 1996, Bailey plowed through $4.6 million of Duboc stock money. He sold a third of it for $2.3 million and spent another $2.3 million from the Swiss line of credit. Of that only $1.1 million went for legitimate expenses related to the Duboc case, according to Judge Paul. Bailey spent most of the rest of it on himself, his businesses, and for a down payment on his Manalapan house, to pay off credit card bills, to buy a life insurance policy, and to fund his aviation business, Palm Beach Roamer.
Bailey insists the value of the remaining 400,000 shares of stock, worth about $20 million at the time, was his to spend. Duboc fired Bailey at the end of 1995. That's when prosecutors discovered the new, higher price of Biochem Pharma. Judge Paul issued a freeze order on all funds associated with the stock, but that didn't stop Bailey from taking another $300,000 or so. (He claimed in court that he didn't know about Paul's order.)
When Bailey learned of the court's ire, he offered to return only $6 million, the stock's value when he received it in Switzerland. "I wanted those profits myself," he says. "I had the balls not to sell it, and it could have wiped me out bigtime. I wanted to pay off my house and my partner's house and pay off the yacht and everything else with that money."
At a court hearing in February 1996, prosecutor McGee declared: "The people of this country have been cheated out of $26 million."
Shapiro testified that he believed Bailey had violated the terms of the deal with the government. Judge Paul agreed and demanded the West Palm Beach lawyer hand over the remaining stock and repay what he had taken. When Bailey declined, Paul ordered him to prison on March 6. Bailey literally knocked down several reporters and photographers as he stormed into the Federal Detention Center in Tallahassee, where he set about calling friends and former clients for loans.
He says he had an easy time in prison, even though there was talk of a race riot because of his ties to Simpson. "I was 44 days in one wing of the jail virtually all by myself," he says. "I had an office. They treated me very well. They did not want me in the general population.... I was a hero to the blacks and anathema to that group of whites."
After six weeks in jail, Bailey finally raised the money, some from the sale of the Spellbound and the rest from friends. By the time the matter was settled, Bailey was forced to repay some $3.5 million that Judge Paul says he never should have taken.
Bailey still says he did nothing wrong.
"F. Lee Bailey is an arrogant son of a bitch," says Howard Neu, a Pembroke Pines lawyer who represented Duboc in a 1997 legal-malpractice lawsuit against Bailey. The case was scuttled when Duboc tried to bribe Judge Paul with $2 million. "Bailey saw dollar signs, and he literally sold Claude Duboc down the river. It was greed, greed, and more greed." William and Chantal McCorkle seemed to have it all -- a thriving real-estate business, a helicopter, a yacht, a mansion, and a tropical island all their own. But that was only infomercial reality. The McCorkles created the illusion to sell get-rich-quick schemes to wannabe millionaires. By the time the feds charged them with fraud in March 1998, prosecutors estimated they had earned as much as $70 million from their schemes.
The couple hired Bailey, who was fresh out of jail, to defend them. Then they diverted $7 million to a bank in the Cayman Islands and allowed the lawyer to take control of the account. He divided it up this way: $2 million went to pay off the McCorkles' debt to the IRS, $3 million was to remain in the bank, and $2 million was put in a legal trust fund.
Problem is, it was actually an illegal fund, prosecutors contend. They say the money earned from fraud clearly should have been forfeited to the government, and they accuse Bailey of intentionally thwarting their attempts to seize it. In fact the Palm Beach lawyer hired a law firm in the islands to protect the money and, by October 21, 1998, the $2 million was gone. About $1 million of it went to Bailey.
On November 4, 1998, the McCorkles were each sentenced to 24 years in prison, but prosecutors still haven't been able to squeeze the $2 million from their counsel. Bailey argues he is broke, in part because his law practice was shut down last year while he tended to calamitous personal troubles. Both his wife, Patricia, and his mother, Grace, succumbed to cancer, losses Bailey says made his court troubles seem insignificant. The attorney says 1999 was the worst year of his life.
The year 2000 hasn't been much better. After hearing the evidence against Bailey in the Duboc case in the Florida Bar hearings, Circuit Judge Cynthia Ellis recommended disbarment. In her July 25 report, Ellis wrote he "is a liar," adding, "Frankly, it is difficult for this referee to conceive of a more egregious set of circumstances than those which Mr. Bailey has brought upon himself." (It could be months before the state supreme court rules on whether or not to follow Ellis' recommendation.)
On August 17 Bailey was forced to appear in an Orlando court to explain why he failed to pay a $700,000 bond on the government's order that he return the McCorkle money. Again Bailey was facing possible contempt-of-court charges and prison time.
When Bailey took the stand to plead poverty, a pattern emerged. All his assets, he told the court, were saddled with more debt than they were worth. He said his Manalapan house, for instance, had about $1.5 million in mortgages and IRS liens on it, including $500,000 of paper held by his friend Asher, whom Bailey is in no hurry to repay. The debts had all been incurred in the Duboc case. Friends had secured their loans as mortgages on his assets.
The Bailey Bullet is worth only about $150,000 and is roughly $260,000 deep in mortgages, he testified. Under questioning he admitted he had never had the plane officially appraised. Interestingly enough, Bailey told New Times he had put more than $1 million into the plane, and an article that ran in the May 1998 issue of AOPA Pilot magazine valued the Bullet at $450,000. His hangar at Lantana Airport has two mortgages on it, he explained, and "probably has no value."
On the stand he never mentioned the spotless 1968 Mercedes. He also testified he had no boat, though he told New Times he has the 22-footer. Questioned by a reporter about those discrepancies, Bailey says the car, which he keeps in his garage, belongs to his deceased wife's estate. Yet prosecutors interrogated him on the stand about the estate. As for the boat, he says it's owned by his company Palm Beach Roamer. Then he exhibits his storied gruffness. "Why are you asking these questions?" he asks. "I'm losing my patience."
Despite all the debt, the August 17 hearing clearly showed Bailey's free-spending ways. He admitted more than $1 million had gone through his account in a recent 12-month period. Most of that money came from book royalties, payment for television work, and the sale of stock in another Asher-owned company, called E-Pawn. The remainder of his assets are tied up in debt, he said at the hearing. "I couldn't come close to a $2 million, a $1 million, or even a $200,000 bond based on my financial status," he stated, adding later that "the most I think I could come up with now is $30,000."
During closing arguments prosecutor Anita Cream complained Bailey had chosen to spend money on himself rather than pay the government and "continues to lead an apparently lavish existence." Judge Patricia Fawsett seemed to agree with her and proclaimed that Bailey was in contempt of court for engaging in a "willful and intentional refusal to pay" the United States. But this time there would be no jail for Bailey. Fawsett turned the tables on the prosecutors, scolding them for not taking civil action to seize his assets. Her punishment for the errant attorney: a referral to the Florida Bar.
When Bailey emerged a free man, he beelined to the phone outside the courtroom. Then, with the receiver to his ear, he turned, winked at a New Times reporter, and flashed the familiar Cheshire cat grin. On September 8, a few weeks after the court hearing, Bailey was busy cultivating his celebrity. In his West Palm Beach law office, which is adorned with model airplanes and memorabilia from prep school and the Marines, he did a television interview with the Learning Channel. A Los Angeles producer named Jude Prest interviewed him about the Sheppard and Boston Strangler cases for a show on the top ten unsolved crimes in American history. When it was over, Prest got Bailey's autograph. Then he stood with the lawyer behind the beautifully polished rosewood desk and posed for pictures.
Bailey says his latest surge of stardom, fueled by the Simpson case, hasn't been entirely pleasant. In fact he blames virtually all his current problems, including the jail time and the possible disbarment, on his representation of O.J. "I probably got more grief out of that case than any other case in history," he says. "I can walk in any room, and I can hear the rednecks talking, saying, "Oh, there's the guy that got the N-guy off.'
"I do not believe I would have been subjected to the treatment I've been getting in Florida had it not been for O.J., because certainly everybody treated me far differently until that verdict came in."
Even prosecutor Marcia Clark trashed Bailey, calling him a liar in open court and later claiming he ate mints during the trial to cover the smell of alcohol on his breath. "Marcia Clark, frankly, is full of shit," Bailey says, adding that his mint-popping is a nervous habit.
But the barbs and legal problems haven't kept him from embracing Simpson. On Larry King Live, Bailey recently issued a public challenge for someone -- anyone -- to put up a $3 million line of credit in return for O.J. submitting to a polygraph. If Simpson passes the test, the money will be used as a reward to find the real killers. No one has yet taken up the offer.
Bailey's future is likely tied to Simpson, especially if he loses his license to practice law and loses his suit for the $20 million from the Duboc case. If those dual disasters strike, he has a fallback: his celebrity. He says he can always write a book on O.J., though he's now waiting for the real killers to be caught. Bailey is in no danger of falling into obscurity anytime soon. He's being played by Christopher Plummer in an upcoming network miniseries on the O.J. case. And television producers regularly call for interviews. He could make big residuals from a Serta commercial, expected to run this fall. In it some sheep employed by insomniacs for counting come to Bailey to see if they can sue the mattress company for putting them out of work.
"It's no fun to have these demons dancing around me," he says of his legal troubles. "It's no fun at all to be flogging away and appealing everything. This doesn't roll off my back. I resent it. But I've got interests in aviation, and I'm a writer with a lot of stories left to tell. I could get a good book deal tomorrow. So I feel secure."
He's not, however, resting easy. Like the public-school troublemaker he used to be, Bailey can't sit still. He's busy preparing to fight for his law license and to win his money. "Who's going to police the government?" he asks rhetorically. "Who's going to prosecute a federal prosecutor for lying? I won't put up with that bullshit."
And the fight goes on.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.