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Flamboyant lawyer F. Lee Bailey may have defended his last high-profile scoundrel. A Naples, Fla., judge concluded on July 21 that the lawyer for the Boston Strangler and O.J. Simpson lied under oath while seeking fees in a 1994 case, and recommended that he be permanently disbarred for inappropriately pocketing millions of dollars intended for the government. Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Ellis, serving as referee for Florida’s top court, ruled that in 1995 and 1996, the Harvard-educated former fighter pilot dishonestly paid himself from stock owned by his client, international drug trafficker Claude Duboc, which the judge says he was supposed to fork over to the U.S. treasury. Ellis derided some of the 67-year-old attorney’s defenses as “patently ludicrous” and found him guilty on six different counts. The seven members of the Florida Supreme Court will ultimately decide Bailey’s fate later this year. “I think the evidence supported the judge’s recommendation, without question,” said Debra J. Davis, an accounting specialist for the Florida State Bar who prosecuted the case. Bailey will be able to practice unimpeded for at least two months, and, in all likelihood, a few months beyond that. He has 30 days to submit an appeal, while the bar attorneys have 20 days to answer it, and he has 10 more days to reply. The supreme court could take months to hear the case and ultimately rule. If the Florida court strips the cowboy-boot-wearing barrister’s law license, he will likely face disbarment in Massachusetts, where he is also licensed. Bailey first rose to prominence in the 1960s, when he represented the so-called Boston Strangler. He later represented Patty Hearst and myriad other prominent citizens of questionable character, which allowed him to buy a 74-foot yacht, Spellbound, and a million-dollar home. He keeps his law office in West Palm Beach, Fla. The disbarment charges grew out of Bailey’s representation of Duboc, which started in March 1994, about three months before he joined the defense team for O.J. Simpson’s double murder trial. After Duboc decided to plead guilty, Bailey said he and the prosecutors agreed that his fees and expenses would come from $3.5 million in cash that Duboc had in a Luxembourg bank. The deal was modified, however, and Bailey ended up transferring into his personal Swiss bank account certificates of stock in a Canadian pharmaceutical company. This move would keep the stock’s value from plummeting when they were all dumped on the market. But arguments erupted after the stock jumped from $6 million to $18 million. Prosecutors said that the lawyer knew he was holding the stock in trust for the government. Bailey argued that the feds had assigned him the stock and reneged only after the stock had appreciated. Bailey refused to pay up, and Judge Maurice Paul threw him in jail for civil contempt. He served 44 days in a North Florida jail for the case in 1996, getting out only after he mortgaged his yacht. He was put on probation in 1996 following a Florida Bar complaint. Bar attorneys formally charged Bailey again in October 1999. Ellis held a hearing from May 30 to June 5 this year, which included testimony from Bailey’s estranged friend, and fellow Duboc — and O.J. — defense lawyer, Robert Shapiro. Ellis concluded that the lawyer’s ethics violations “are aggravated by the fact that he minimizes his obvious intent and he has yet to account for the interest” that accrued while he had the funds. She concluded that aggravating factors arguing in favor of disbarment in Bailey’s case included dishonest or selfish motive; a pattern of misconduct; multiple offenses; submission of false statements; refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of conduct; and substantial experience in the practice of law. The famed litigator has not had a good 12 months. His mother and wife both died, and, in January, a federal magistrate judge ruled that Bailey needed to disgorge $2 million in fees in another matter. He has recently been litigating cases in both North Carolina and California. In assessing Bailey’s standing, Ellis reviewed the recent disciplinary findings against the confident attorney. “In each instance, the various Judges and Justices have employed circumspect and eloquent ways of saying the same thing: ‘The respondent is a liar.’ This Referee concurs.” Bailey’s attorney, Don Beverly, did not immediately return a call for comment. Beverly’s assistant said that a statement was forthcoming. Despite Ellis’s emphatic recommendation, the Florida Bar’s public information records will continue to list the attorney as a member in good standing until the Supreme Court rules. Ellis’s amended report is posted at: http://COURTADMIN.cjis20.org/media.htm.

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