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Hollywood producers are preparing a CBS miniseries, called “American Tragedy,” about the O.J. Simpson defense team. They are in the process of casting the lead role — that of attorney Robert L. Shapiro. But if Tinseltown wants to capture all the emotion of Shapiro’s relationship with nemesis and former O.J. defense team member F. Lee Bailey, it had better not start shooting anytime soon. That’s because the two famous lawyers are still busy adding chapters to their real-life drama. Specifically, Shapiro is playing a key role in what could be the greatest legal fight of Bailey’s career — Bailey’s battle to keep his law license. Last month, the two spoke for the first time in nearly six years — since their rupture during the O.J. Simpson case — when Bailey finally managed to question Shapiro, who for months had avoided being deposed. He finally was served with a subpoena when an investigator posed as a professional baseball player in need of legal counsel. The Florida Bar has charged Bailey with misusing client funds, lying under oath and engaging in conflicts of interest while he and Shapiro tag-teamed the defense of convicted drug trafficker Claude Luis Duboc in 1994. Bailey had agreed to shepherd and help liquidate millions of dollars worth of Duboc stock and other assets as part of a plea agreement that forfeited the money to the federal government. When Bailey refused to turn over $18 million worth of stock in a Canadian company in 1996, Bailey was found in contempt of court and sentenced to six months in jail. He served 43 days before relinquishing the stock and $700,000 in cash. The action, nonetheless, led to an ethics complaint filed against Bailey in July 1996, and, following an investigation, the Bar now wants Bailey’s license revoked for at least five years. Shapiro was unavailable for comment by press time. And Bailey, who is trying a felony case in North Carolina, could not be reached for comment. Bailey has denied any wrongdoing. The case is about to take a critical turn. As early as Friday, Naples, Fla., Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Ellis could file a report with the Florida Supreme Court, recommending what, if any, discipline Bailey should face. The state high court will decide Bailey’s fate after hearing lawyers’ arguments, regardless of Ellis’ recommendations. If disbarred in Florida, Bailey, who became a household name in the 1960s after defending alleged “Boston Strangler” Albert DeSalvo, would likely face disciplinary proceedings in other state and federal courts in which he is licensed. On June 12, Bailey questioned Shapiro in Los Angeles. Bailey’s goal was to neutralize statements Shapiro made in 1996 and on which the Florida Bar is relying to disbar Bailey. But the events leading to the case really began years earlier, with Shapiro’s March 1994 call to Bailey. A month earlier, Duboc’s ex-wife, Robin, had called Shapiro, asking him to represent the drug kingpin, who at the time was facing extradition from Hong Kong. Duboc was facing trial in Gainesville. Shapiro needed a Florida lawyer, so he called Bailey; the pair had joint-ventured criminal defenses from time to time beginning in Hawaii 20 years before. The two renewed acquaintances while conferring with Duboc. Duboc’s drug domain included cash, two large estates in France, cars, yachts and stock in Canadian and Japanese companies. In an alleged oral agreement, Bailey on May 9, 1994, transferred Duboc’s 602,000 shares of the Canadian stock in Biochem Pharma Inc. into Bailey’s Swiss account in Geneva. The stock soared there from $9 in 1994 to $47 a share in 1995, swelling in value from $6 million to $24 million. If the stock devalued to zero, Bailey would take the hit; if its value increased, Bailey said, he would inherit the windfall. His position in federal court and with the Florida Bar is that the Biochem Pharma stock was payment for legal fees and expenses instead of $3.5 million cash. On July 6, 1994, Bailey sold Duboc’s Japanese stock for $730,000, which he deposited in his personal money market account. He then paid the U.S. $730,000 from that account. Bailey sold 150,000 shares of Biochem Pharma stock and borrowed on the balance, depositing about $3.6 million into his West Palm Beach money market account between May 25, 1994, and Dec. 28, 1995. According to Davis, Bailey spent these funds to buy a personal residence and pay his bills. According to the Bar’s trial lawyer, Debra Joyce Davis, Duboc funds were funneled into Bailey’s personal money market account when it was flagging. On May 25, 1994, its balance was $7,192 Shapiro testified last month that he was unaware of Bailey’s various Duboc stock transactions and that he never did receive a fee from Duboc or Bailey, except to be paid $16,000 in travel expenses. CRITICAL TESTIMONY In February 1996, Shapiro told U.S. District Judge Maurice M. Paul that Bailey engineered a $3.6 million rip-off of Duboc’s illicit profits between May 1994 and December 1995 — funds that Bailey allegedly held in trust for the U.S. as forfeited assets. That testimony helped jail Bailey in 1998 for contempt. But it hasn’t been easy for Bailey to cross-examine his accuser — Shapiro. That’s because the intrepid Shapiro for several months had been ducking being served with the subpoena, says West Palm Beach lawyer Donald Beverly, who is defending Bailey, with Bailey himself as co-counsel. In fact, getting Shapiro was so difficult that the referee in the case, in an unusual move, gave Bailey several days after the case ended to depose Shapiro. “We had to make three efforts to serve him,” says Beverly, “and it posed a real time-frame problem. But to Shapiro’s credit, after he was served he was relatively cooperative and offered condolences for the [recent] loss of [Bailey's] wife and mother.” To get Shapiro, Bailey’s investigator, Pat McKenna, used some subterfuge. McKenna knew that Shapiro had represented professional pitcher Daryl Strawberry, who had a history of drug possession and other criminal troubles. So McKenna posed as a professional baseball player, calling Shapiro to say he had just been charged with rape and that the case would have a high profile. Shapiro took the bait, made an appointment with the impostor and was served with the subpoena, Beverly says. During the deposition, Shapiro reminded Bailey that he, Miami lawyer Edward Shohat — who briefly joined Duboc’s legal team in May 1994 — prosecutors and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration all testified last month during the Bar’s presentation to the referee that there was an oral agreement requiring Bailey to manage Duboc assets as part of a plan to forfeit them to the U.S. as part of Duboc’s plea agreement. The way Shapiro saw it, their fee would be on a “sliding scale” of some kind: the more of Duboc’s money that Shapiro and Bailey produced for the U.S., the more the two would receive in legal fees. But Bailey was unable to shake Shapiro from his claim that Bailey was only supposed to be a trustee for the government. However, Shapiro conceded in the deposition that the government was willing to approve a hefty fee, based on previous discussions. According to court documents, in April 1994 federal prosecutors and FBI and DEA agents met with Shapiro and Bailey to negotiate the Duboc case, and agreed that Bailey would act as trustee for the government. They now claim that no defense fees could be paid without court approval. Bailey says otherwise. Shapiro testified that after Duboc pleaded guilty, Bailey’s role was unique in serving two masters — Duboc and the U.S. What’s more, Shapiro noted that there was not a signed written agreement. SHAPIRO’S ADVICE While Bailey was questioning him, Shapiro, reflecting on the life sentence Duboc eventually received, said he doubted that his own legal services helped Duboc. Shapiro answered many of Bailey’s questions with a simple, “I don’t recall.” That was a marked contrast to Shapiro’s 1996 testimony, when Shapiro recited details of conversations with government prosecutors, agents and Bailey. Shapiro’s testimony stated that Bailey — against Shapiro’s advice — convinced Duboc on May 17, 1994, to plead guilty to trying to smuggle 37 tons of hashish and marijuana into the U.S. At the heart of the plea agreement Bailey fashioned was Duboc’s willingness to forfeit at least $100 million of his drug profits to the U.S. And that provided Bailey the pivotal role of pulling many of these far-flung assets together and putting them in government coffers. According to transcripts of Shapiro’s testimony, Bailey promised Duboc that he would be sentenced to no more than five years in prison if he cooperated with U.S. efforts to seize much of Duboc’s reputed $250 million drug empire. Duboc, who later fought his plea agreement, eventually was sentenced to life in prison on one count of trafficking and 20 years on another — to be served concurrently. Duboc also was fined $5 million and ordered to forfeit $100 million of his assets. Duboc sued Bailey for legal malpractice in 1997, but a Palm Beach Circuit Court judge dismissed the suit. Duboc never sued Shapiro.

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