New York­er, March 11, 1996

ANNALS OF LAW  F. Lee Bai­ley has been in trou­ble before, but this time he may be head­ing for jail—partly because of the tes­ti­mo­ny of Robert Shapiro.


ROBERT Shapiro was smirk­ing at F. Lee Bai­ley. It was the morn­ing of Feb­ru­ary 2nd of this year, and the cel­e­brat­ed feud between the two crim­i­nal-defense attor­neys which had begun in Los Ange­les dur­ing the O.J. Simp­son tri­al had advanced to Round 2—a round that would be fought this time not on nation­al tele­vi­sion but in a lit­tle cour­t­house in Ocala, a coun­ty seat of some six­ty-five thou­sand souls in the alli­ga­tor coun­try of north Flori­da. The pre­sid­ing judge, a slight, bald­ing man in his six­ties named Mau­rice Paul, pep­pered his speech with “y’all”s, but his demeanor was not friend­ly. He, too, had his sights fixed on Bai­ley, and, as one court­room vet­er­an put it, “he had that jail look in his eye.”
     Bai­ley, who appeared ashen and som­bre, was in trou­ble with fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors in north Flori­da, and he had been sum­moned to a hear­ing on a mat­ter that could indeed cost him his lib­er­ty. Shapiro, deeply tanned and look­ing ebul­lient, had come to tes­ti­fy for the gov­ern­ment. Though Bai­ley did his best to avoid eye con­tact with Shapiro, he could not fail to notice the smirk, and he lat­er said he’d known just what Shapiro was think­ing: “I got you back, you son of a bitch!”
     In 1994, Bai­ley and Shapiro shared anoth­er client besides O.J. Simpson—a wealthy drug traf­fick­er named Claude Duboc, who plead­ed guilty in north Flori­da and agreed to for­feit mil­lions of dol­lars in cash and assets in the hope of reduc­ing a life sen­tence. One of those assets, a block of stock, was expect­ed to rise dra­mat­i­cal­ly in val­ue soon, but if the Flori­da pros­e­cu­tors seized it they were required by pol­i­cy to sell it imme­di­ate­ly; so the stock was giv­en to Bai­ley to hold, they said, in trust for the gov­ern­ment. Two years lat­er, the stock had appre­ci­at­ed by about twen­ty mil­lion dol­lars, and, to the pros­e­cu­tors’ aston­ish­ment, Bai­ley now said that those prof­its were his to keep. The gov­ern­ment filed an emer­gency motion with Judge Paul, and he ordered Bai­ley to come to a hear­ing and to bring the stock with him. Bai­ley had shown up at the hear­ing, all right, but, to the fur­ther aston­ish­ment of the pros­e­cu­tors, he had dared to come emp­ty-hand­ed.
     F. Lee Bai­ley is a for­mer Marine fight­er pilot with the vis­age of a bull­dog and a per­son­al­i­ty to match, and many of his pro­fes­sion­al col­leagues are in awe of him. One of them has said, “He’s rough-and-tum­ble, he doesn’t live with­in the norms of soci­ety, and he fears nobody.” And in this case, as it hap­pened, Bai­ley held an ace: the Flori­da law­men had trust­ed him so thor­ough­ly that the agree­ment between him and the gov­ern­ment with regard to the stock had nev­er been set down on paper—not even in a let­ter or file memo. All that exist­ed to refute Bailey’s claim of enti­tle­ment to the stock profits—a claim that one of the pros­e­cu­tors called “absurd and unbelievable”—was the mem­o­ry of the peo­ple involved in the case.
     One of those peo­ple was Robert Shapiro, whose tes­ti­mo­ny that after­noon, it seemed, was as dam­ag­ing to Bai­ley as he could make it. By then, how­ev­er, Bai­ley had regained not only his col­or but his swag­ger. In a sub­se­quent inter­view, he referred to the north-Flori­da law­men as “these back­woods peo­ple,” and at times he seemed to be laugh­ing at his prin­ci­pal accuser, a fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor from Tal­la­has­see named David McGee.
     By the con­clu­sion of the hear­ing, McGee was fight­ing mad, and in an emo­tion­al clos­ing argu­ment he told Judge Paul, “What you have is proof that F. Lee Bai­ley has stolen from the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States in excess of twen­ty mil­lion dol­lars.… He has act­ed in com­plete and total dero­ga­tion of his oblig­a­tions to the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States…to this court…to his pro­fes­sion, and…to his client. He did it for the old­est, the most tire­some, and the least excus­able reason—to put mon­ey in his own pock­et. For that, he gives up ethics, he lies, and he cheats.… I ask that the court place him in jail.”
     Judge Paul retired to cham­bers to delib­er­ate, and McGee sat down at the pros­e­cu­tion table, still fum­ing. It was appar­ent that McGee and Shapiro had become allies not mere­ly in legal dis­putes with Bai­ley but in their feel­ings of betray­al by him. Shapiro had brought Bai­ley into the Simp­son case, and he believed Bai­ley had tried to elbow him aside; McGee thought he had made a trust agree­ment with Bai­ley, nev­er imag­in­ing that the famous defense attor­ney would in this man­ner defy, and embar­rass, the gov­ern­ment of the Unit­ed States. Well, they had both under­es­ti­mat­ed F. Lee Bai­ley. Now the ques­tion was whether Bai­ley had under­es­ti­mat­ed them.

BAILEY had dis­played a knack for get­ting under people’s skin—at the Simp­son tri­al, Mar­cia Clark, in open court, called him a liar—and he seemed not to care what oth­ers thought of him. In a 1971 mem­oir, “The Defense Nev­er Rests,” he writes fond­ly of “the sat­is­fac­tions of being a rene­gade” and likens the role of crim­i­nal defense attor­ney to the hero­ic strug­gle of a sin­gle-com­bat war­rior. The book opens with the sto­ry of how, as a Marine lieu­tenant in his ear­ly twen­ties, he was forced to land a Sabre Jet with­out engine pow­er. “If I ran a school for crim­i­nal lawyers, I would teach them all to fly,” he writes. “The ones who sur­vived would under­stand the mean­ing of ‘alone.’”
     What­ev­er forces drove Bai­ley, they made him a for­mi­da­ble court­room advo­cate. Even peo­ple who did not like him acknowl­edged him to be one of the most charis­mat­ic tri­al lawyers this side of Edward Ben­nett Williams. Bai­ley, who stands a com­pact five feet nine, is renowned for his prodi­gious mem­o­ry, his dogged cross-exam­i­na­tion style, and his ora­tor­i­cal skills. (He has a res­o­nant, William Hold­en sort of voice.) His crit­ics say that he has slipped in the past decade or so—that his well-known excess­es, which include four mar­riages, have tak­en their toll. The gen­er­al pop­u­lace does not seem to think so: a 1993 pub­lic-opin­ion poll tak­en by the Nation­al Law Jour­nal select­ed Bai­ley as the most admired lawyer in Amer­i­ca.
     Bai­ley does lead an immense­ly busy life, and his over­loaded sched­ule would prob­a­bly be impos­si­ble if he didn’t main­tain sev­er­al air­planes. (He used to have a heli­copter as well, and on at least one occa­sion flew it under a bridge.) He is the lead part­ner in two law firms, one in Boston and the oth­er in West Palm Beach, and until recent­ly was a part­ner in a third firm, in New York, which spe­cial­ized in avi­a­tion dis­as­ters. He is also a busi­ness­man. Bai­ley is the C.E.O. of Palm Beach Roamer, a Flori­da cor­po­ra­tion that upgrades exec­u­tive air­craft and yachts. (One of the air­craft mod­els, a retooled twin-pis­ton, is called the Bai­ley Bul­let.) And he is the own­er of Com­put­er Law, a con­sult­ing firm that helps attor­neys com­put­er­ize their data. (Bai­ley is a com­put­er and gad­get nut.) To date, he has pub­lished sev­en­teen books, includ­ing a nov­el. He says sim­ply, “I squeeze more out of life than most peo­ple.”
     The eldest son of an adver­tis­ing man, Bai­ley was born in Waltham, Mass­a­chu­setts, in 1933. At twen­ty, he left Har­vard, where he was major­ing in Eng­lish, to join the military—first the Navy, and then a Marine squadron at Cher­ry Point, North Car­oli­na. While at Har­vard, he had met a Les­ley Col­lege stu­dent who, in 1953, became the first of his wives; with­in three years, they had had two sons, and in 1961 they were divorced. Bai­ley had anoth­er son, with his sec­ond wife—his for­mer sec­re­tary, whom he described short­ly before their divorce as an “unrea­son­ably attrac­tive blonde.” Both his third wife and his cur­rent wife, Patri­cia, were flight atten­dants. In the mid-eight­ies, Bai­ley moved his prin­ci­pal res­i­dence from sub­ur­ban Boston to south Flori­da, so that Patri­cia could be near her ail­ing par­ents.
     Bai­ley had dis­cov­ered law by a fluke assign­ment to chief legal offi­cer of his Marine squadron, after a more qual­i­fied can­di­date was killed in a Sabre Jet crash. When he com­plet­ed his mil­i­tary ser­vice, he earned a law degree at Boston Uni­ver­si­ty, and in Novem­ber of 1960 was admit­ted to the Mass­a­chu­setts bar. A year lat­er, Sam Shep­pard, a Cleve­land doc­tor con­vict­ed of mur­der­ing his wife—the case inspired “The Fugi­tive” tele­vi­sion series and movie—hired Bai­ley. Shep­pard had by then been in jail for sev­en years and had exhaust­ed eleven appeals. Bai­ley argued the case up to the Supreme Court, won a new tri­al on the ground that the judge had failed to shield the jury from the press and pub­lic prej­u­dice, and, in 1966, got Shep­pard acquit­ted. Ever since, Bai­ley has been known for homi­cide cases—his oth­er clients have includ­ed Albert DeSal­vo, the con­fessed Boston Stran­gler, and Cap­tain Ernest Med­i­na, the Army com­pa­ny com­man­der blamed for the My Lai mas­sacre.
     He has also been con­tro­ver­sial. While prepar­ing to try two relat­ed mur­der cas­es in New Jer­sey in 1968, he wrote a let­ter to the gov­er­nor in which he accused the pros­e­cu­tion of hav­ing “pres­sured or bribed” wit­ness­es; when the let­ter was leaked to the press, Bai­ley was removed as defense coun­sel and ulti­mate­ly sus­pend­ed from prac­tic­ing law in New Jer­sey courts for a year. In 1970, a state judge in Mass­a­chu­setts sharply crit­i­cized him for, among oth­er things, attack­ing the con­vic­tion of a client dur­ing tele­vi­sion inter­views with John­ny Car­son and Joey Bishop—a prac­tice con­sid­ered shock­ing at the time. The judge toyed with dis­bar­ring Bai­ley but instead opt­ed for judi­cial cen­sure. Bai­ley ran into far worse trou­ble three years lat­er, as the lawyer for a Flori­da busi­ness­man named Glenn Turn­er, who ran Dare to Be Great, a moti­va­tion­al-tape dis­tri­b­u­tion enter­prise that was alleged to be a Ponzi scheme. Fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors in Orlan­do indict­ed Turn­er, eight of his asso­ciates, and Bai­ley for mail fraud. Two years and one mis­tri­al lat­er, the charges against Bai­ley were final­ly dis­missed, but the case had near­ly bank­rupt­ed him.
    In 1982, Bai­ley was a defen­dant again—this time in San Fran­cis­co, on a charge of dri­ving while intox­i­cat­ed, which was pun­ish­able by up to six months in jail. He had been pulled over by a motor­cy­cle patrol­man, who claimed that Bai­ley smelled of liquor. Bai­ley was hand­cuffed and brought to the police sta­tion, and when he refused to take a blood-alco­hol test, he was strip-searched, and held for sev­er­al hours. After a two-week tri­al, the jury found him guilty only of run­ning a stop sign, and he was fined fifty dol­lars.
     The ver­dict was a vic­to­ry not only for Bai­ley but also for the man who had defend­ed him—Robert Shapiro. The two had met on a drug case in Hawaii in the ear­ly sev­en­ties, as respec­tive coun­sel for two of the defen­dants, and had got the case dis­missed on pro­ce­dur­al grounds before it came to tri­al. They remained close. When Shapiro’s first son, Brent, was born, in 1980, Bai­ley was his god­fa­ther.
     In truth, Shapiro seemed to have lit­tle in com­mon with Bai­ley. He had spent most of his life in Los Ange­les, had a pri­vate prac­tice on the Avenue of the Stars, and was an arche­typ­al Bev­er­ly Hills lawyer. His client list was heavy on celebri­ties: between 1991 and 1993 he rep­re­sent­ed the base­ball play­er Vince Cole­man on a charge of pos­ses­sion of an explo­sive device, the direc­tor Ivan Nagy when he was arrest­ed for alleged­ly recruit­ing pros­ti­tutes, and the rap star Vanil­la Ice on a mis­de­meanor weapons charge. Unlike Bai­ley, Shapiro seemed intent on not mak­ing ene­mies, and he was proud of his good rela­tions with pros­e­cu­tors and with the Los Ange­les Police Depart­ment. He was known espe­cial­ly for plea bar­gains; in 1991, for instance, he nego­ti­at­ed a vol­un­tary-manslaugh­ter plea for Mar­lon Brando’s son, Chris­t­ian, who had orig­i­nal­ly been charged with mur­der in the shoot­ing death of his half-sister’s lover.
     In March of 1994, a new client unex­pect­ed­ly came Shapiro’s way. Robin Duboc, a woman he knew social­ly, called him to say that her ex-hus­band, Claude, had been arrest­ed on charges of drug traf­fick­ing and mon­ey laun­der­ing, and need­ed a lawyer. Shapiro was not yet famous—the arrest of O.J. Simp­son was still three months away—but Claude Duboc liked him, and he was hired. With­in a week, Duboc had also hired F. Lee Bai­ley; it would help to have Bai­ley on board, Shapiro had argued, because he had had expe­ri­ence with the Flori­da courts. The fact is, though, that Bailey’s Flori­da law prac­tice was most­ly in and around Miami—the South­ern District—and he had nev­er even met the judge assigned to the Duboc case, Mau­rice Paul. He had heard, though, that Judge Paul was a for­mer mil­i­tary man, and was sure they would get along just fine.

THE fed­er­al judi­cial dis­trict that com­pris­es Tal­la­has­see, Gainesville, and Pen­saco­la is noto­ri­ous­ly hard-line, espe­cial­ly where drugs are con­cerned. Until fed­er­al prison sen­tences were stan­dard­ized, in the mid-eight­ies, drug offend­ers fared worse in north Flori­da than almost any­where else in the nation. One for­mer dis­trict judge there, Lynn Hig­by, was nick­named the Time Machine. Mau­rice Paul, the cur­rent chief judge, has been described as Hig­by with­out the sense of humor. Paul is a Rea­gan appointee, and his rul­ings tend over­whelm­ing­ly to favor the pros­e­cu­tion. He speaks with a drawl and has a tight-lipped smile. Though his legal acu­men is undis­put­ed, he has about him an air of provin­cial­ism. Paul took a par­tic­u­lar­ly hard line on nar­cotics. “Judge Paul tru­ly per­ceives him­self as a war­rior in the war on drugs, rather than a ref­er­ee,” says Lar­ry Turn­er, a Gainesville defense attor­ney.
     There was some­thing else about Judge Paul that did not bode well for Bai­ley in his own com­ing con­fronta­tion in north Flori­da. Paul’s rep­u­ta­tion on for­fei­ture, accord­ing to Lucy Mor­gan, a vet­er­an reporter for the St. Peters­burg Times, can be expressed in five words: “He will clean you out.” Lar­ry Turn­er adds, “Paul’s favorite thing to tell a drug defen­dant is ‘If you used drug mon­ey to buy a dia­per for the baby your wife is hold­ing out there—I want that dia­per!’”
     Paul had a per­fect coun­ter­part in David McGee, the tough first assis­tant Unit­ed States Attor­ney for the North­ern Dis­trict of Flori­da, in Tal­la­has­see. McGee is forty-sev­en, tall and rangy, with a bushy mus­tache and a resem­blance to the actor Nick Nolte. Nation­al­ly, he is per­haps best known for his con­vic­tion, in 1994, of Paul Hill, the ex-min­is­ter who shot and killed an abor­tion doc­tor and his escort in Pen­saco­la; but local­ly he is cel­e­brat­ed for his almost mis­sion­ary pur­suit of drug traf­fick­ers. The fed­er­al-court cal­en­dar in north Flori­da often seems to bulge with drug cas­es, even though the region has far less of a drug prob­lem than, say, south Flori­da, which is a port of entry; the expla­na­tion, by and large, is McGee. By law, if traf­fick­ers so much as pass through a fed­er­al dis­trict that dis­trict may claim juris­dic­tion over them, and that is vir­tu­al­ly all the pre­text that McGee needs to bring a case.
     The pros­e­cu­tion of Claude Duboc was a prime instance of McGee’s grab­bing a case that arguably belonged in anoth­er venue. Duboc, who ran his enter­prise with a part­ner named John Knock (now a fugi­tive), sold vast quan­ti­ties of hashish most­ly in Cana­da, and an esti­mat­ed twelve hun­dred met­ric tons of mar­i­jua­na almost entire­ly on the West Coast. Nev­er­the­less, by the ear­ly nineties McGee had learned of Duboc and had plans for him. In June of 1993, an asso­ciate of Duboc’s was lured to a hotel in Gainesville, to talk busi­ness with a cer­tain Earl Kel­ly, who claimed he could recruit a crew to unload drugs for Duboc in Van­cou­ver and San Fran­cis­co. Earl Kel­ly was real­ly Carl Lil­ley, an agent of the Drug Enforce­ment Admin­is­tra­tion work­ing under the super­vi­sion of Dave McGee. Before long, the asso­ciate and two oth­er mem­bers of the Duboc orga­ni­za­tion were arrest­ed.
    By the spring of 1994, Duboc had tak­en up res­i­dence in the twelve-hun­dred-dol­lar-a-night Ambas­sador Suite of the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong. Tall and sandy-haired, with a Gal­lic nose, he was born in New York, to French par­ents, in 1944. Duboc’s enter­prise did an esti­mat­ed $165 mil­lion a year in drug busi­ness, and his capac­i­ty to earn was rivalled only by his capac­i­ty to spend. Among his pos­ses­sions was a mag­nif­i­cent vil­la in the South of France, near Cannes, next door to the vil­la of a Sau­di Ara­bi­an sheikh, who was oblig­ed to move two palm trees that were obstruct­ing Duboc’s view of the Mediter­ranean.
     McGee’s office quick­ly obtained an order of extra­di­tion against Duboc, and in March of 1994, while din­ing at an expen­sive restau­rant, he was arrest­ed by the Roy­al Hong Kong Police and thrown in jail. He hired attor­neys from Coud­ert Brothers—a law firm based in New York, with a spe­cial­ty in inter­na­tion­al law—to try to fight the extra­di­tion. (Coud­ert also does legal work for this mag­a­zine.) But it was hope­less. By ear­ly April, Claude Duboc was incar­cer­at­ed in the fed­er­al deten­tion cen­ter in Tal­la­has­see, await­ing tri­al.
     Once Bai­ley and Shapiro had been hired to rep­re­sent him, Duboc was faced with a deci­sion. In a sur­pris­ing role rever­sal, Shapiro want­ed to fight the charges, and Bai­ley was the one rec­om­mend­ing a plea bar­gain. “Shapiro was act­ing like an ass­hole,” Bai­ley says now. “The gov­ern­ment had an over­whelm­ing case.” The drug charges in the indict­ment against Duboc car­ried manda­to­ry life terms, but Bai­ley told his client that if he coop­er­at­ed with the Unit­ed States Attorney’s Office—and, most impor­tant, if he for­feit­ed an “extra­or­di­nary” amount of mon­ey to the government—he could get as lit­tle as three to five years. Shapiro says he refused to endorse Bailey’s opti­mism.
     By mid-April, Shapiro and Bai­ley were still dead­locked over whether to fight the charges, and Shapiro essen­tial­ly quit the case. (Bai­ley says Shapiro want­ed a hefty refer­ral fee from him; Shapiro denies this.) With­in a week, Duboc had made his deci­sion: he would plead guilty and coop­er­ate. On April 25th, Duboc and Bai­ley sat down with pros­e­cu­tors in their office in Tal­la­has­see, and, as Bai­ley took notes on a portable com­put­er, Duboc made a recita­tion of his world­ly goods. Apart from cash hold­ings of about fifty-sev­en mil­lion dol­lars, Duboc’s most valu­able pos­ses­sion was the vil­la in the South of France, which was worth about thir­ty mil­lion. He also had a home in Poigny, near Paris, worth per­haps ten mil­lion. He owned expen­sive cars, boats, watch­es, art work, and antique fur­ni­ture. And he held six hun­dred and two thou­sand shares of stock in a Cana­di­an phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny called BioChem Phar­ma, which trad­ed on the NASDAQ.
   &nbDuboc strong­ly rec­om­mend­ed that the gov­ern­ment not sell the stock right away. BioChem Phar­ma, he said, was in the last phase of tri­als for a new drug called 3TC, to be used in the treat­ment of AIDS, and, if the drug was ulti­mate­ly approved, the shares, then trad­ing at around nine dol­lars, could go to fifty. Duboc says that he gave the pros­e­cu­tors this infor­ma­tion because he believed that the more mon­ey he made for the gov­ern­ment the greater his chances of get­ting a lighter sen­tence would be—hadn’t Bai­ley told him exact­ly that? Bai­ley main­tains, how­ev­er, that Duboc’s real motive was that he enter­tained some scheme to keep the stock prof­its for him­self.
     The day after Duboc was debriefed on his assets, Bai­ley had two pri­vate meet­ings with Gre­go­ry Miller, then the head of the crim­i­nal divi­sion of the Unit­ed States Attorney’s Office, who report­ed to Dave McGee. Both Miller and Bai­ley agree that Bai­ley was offered pos­ses­sion of the BioChem stock, but the two men have dif­fer­ent rec­ol­lec­tions of what else was said. Accord­ing to Miller, Bai­ley was told that he would be hold­ing the shares in trust for the gov­ern­ment, so that if Duboc’s pre­dic­tion came true, and the val­ue of the stock went up, the gov­ern­ment would prof­it. Miller recalls being con­cerned about Duboc’s houses—they had to be kept up, at con­sid­er­able expense, in order to be sold advan­ta­geous­ly. He says that by tak­ing the stock Bai­ley was assum­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for the upkeep of the hous­es, because it was to be paid for out of the stock fund. Final­ly, Miller says, Bai­ley was told that, even though the stock was drug-taint­ed, and there­fore sub­ject to for­fei­ture, the gov­ern­ment would not oppose Bai­ley tak­ing his legal fee for rep­re­sent­ing Duboc out of the stock fund. Of course, any such fee would have to be deter­mined and approved by Judge Paul.
     Bai­ley agrees only about the stock being the source of his legal fee. He says that there was no men­tion of his act­ing as a trustee; that he vol­un­teered to use the fund to help main­tain the French prop­er­ties; and that, as he under­stood it, the stock was not a for­feitable asset. He also says there was no men­tion of the gov­ern­ment receiv­ing any upside gain from the stock. Indeed, he says, Miller warned him that he would be at risk in tak­ing the stock, because it could go down, leav­ing him in dan­ger of los­ing his fee. There­fore, Bai­ley says, “it was my risk and my gain.” In any event, on May 9, 1994, the BioChem stock, then worth $5.89 mil­lion, was deposit­ed in F. Lee Bailey’s bank account at Cred­it Suisse in Gene­va.
  &nbsAround the same time, Duboc decid­ed that per­haps Shapiro was right, and that he should con­sid­er fight­ing the indict­ment. Duboc scout­ed around for a new attor­ney to eval­u­ate his case and advise him on whether he should fire Bai­ley. He set­tled on Edward Shohat, a Mia­mi lawyer who had defend­ed the Colom­bian drug traf­fick­er Car­los Lehder. Shohat says that he ini­tial­ly planned to replace Bai­ley, as Duboc wished, but that he changed his mind when he saw how deeply admired Bai­ley was in the North­ern Dis­trict. “I’m sit­ting there, and the god­dam court reporter asks Bai­ley for his auto­graph,” Shohat recalls. Besides, Shohat agreed with Bailey’s ear­li­er assess­ment, that Duboc did not have much chance of win­ning. So, on Shohat’s rec­om­men­da­tion, Duboc retained both attor­neys and on May 17, 1994, with both of them present, he plead­ed guilty to one count of drug traf­fick­ing and one count of mon­ey laun­der­ing.
  Shohat and Bai­ley did not get along. That May, the two lawyers met in France to vis­it Duboc’s prop­er­ties, and, dur­ing a train ride to Poigny, Shohat request­ed that Bai­ley pro­vide him with copies of all the finan­cial records in the case. Bai­ley, he says, did not respond and, after the trip, cut off all com­mu­ni­ca­tion. By Decem­ber of 1994, Shohat had been edged out of the case. Bai­ley, he says, final­ly sent him a six­ty-five-thou­sand-dol­lar check for his ser­vices, which includ­ed fif­teen thou­sand dol­lars in expens­es. Today, Shohat has kind words only for Bailey’s court­room skills. “Lee is a ter­rif­ic lawyer,” he says. “Ter­rif­ic. On his feet. He just dom­i­nates a court­room. But no way could I work with that son-of-a-bitch prick.”

THOUGH Duboc’s guilty plea remained a source of dis­agree­ment between Bai­ley and Shapiro, they stayed good friends. When, less than a month lat­er, O.J. Simp­son became Shapiro’s client, the two lawyers found they need­ed each oth­er again. Bai­ley had tried some thir­ty mur­der cas­es; Shapiro had tried none. Big-name tri­al attorneys—Gerry Spence, for one—were hov­er­ing around Simp­son like sharks. Shapiro imme­di­ate­ly invit­ed Bai­ley to join the defense team, osten­si­bly as a con­sul­tant but also, in a sense, as shark repel­lent. Bai­ley, for his part, had not had a high-pro­file case since he defend­ed Pat­ty Hearst, unsuc­cess­ful­ly, on bank-rob­bery charges, in 1976; the Simp­son case was exact­ly what he need­ed to put him back in the pub­lic eye.
     Shapiro was not about to share his fee in the Simp­son case with Bai­ley, however—not after giv­ing him Claude Duboc. In a let­ter dat­ed August 24, 1994, Shapiro spells out his agree­ment with Simp­son: the for­mer foot­ball star will pay Shapiro $1.2 mil­lion, in month­ly install­ments of no less than a hun­dred thou­sand. Pay­ments to Bai­ley, how­ev­er, “shall be my respon­si­bil­i­ty, if any,” the let­ter says. Bai­ley con­firms that Shapiro nev­er paid him for Simp­son. At the hear­ing in Ocala last month, Dave McGee explored the ques­tion of whether any of Duboc’s drug mon­ey found its way into the Simp­son case. Shapiro tes­ti­fied that Bai­ley con­tributed “a tremen­dous amount” of sophis­ti­cat­ed com­put­er equip­ment used for Simpson’s defense, and said he did not know who paid for it. The equip­ment was installed and oper­at­ed in Shapiro’s office on the Avenue of the Stars by Howard Har­ris, Bailey’s com­put­er guru, with whom Bai­ley start­ed the Com­put­er Law con­sult­ing firm.
     It is pos­si­ble that anoth­er of Bailey’s asso­ciates who worked on the Simp­son case, a pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tor named John McNal­ly, was paid out of the stock fund. McNal­ly is a tough-talk­ing Brook­lyn-born for­mer police detec­tive; Bai­ley is fond of telling peo­ple how McNal­ly had shot two rob­bers in a bar before he even grad­u­at­ed from the train­ing acad­e­my. McNal­ly quick­ly came to despise Shapiro, and prob­a­bly had a good deal to do with Shapiro’s falling out with Bai­ley.
   &n“I think Lee Bailey’s the great­est lawyer in the world, and Bob­by Shapiro is the biggest fraud in the world,” McNal­ly says today. “I don’t think Shapiro paid any atten­tion to the Simp­son case. He was out takin’ bows and signin’ auto­graphs. I was there four months, I saw him in the office maybe sev­en times. One time, he asked me how long it took Ron Gold­man to walk to Nicole’s house—he didn’t even real­ize Gold­man drove. Anoth­er time, he calls a meet­ing and asks for a show of hands—how many think O.J. is guilty? Our jaws dropped. Look at the video when the ver­dict came in. You don’t know which side he was on. He looked dis­ap­point­ed.”
     Shapiro declines to com­ment on any­thing McNal­ly has to say, but he has pub­licly blamed the detec­tive for abet­ting Bailey’s treach­ery, as Shapiro sees it, in the Simp­son case. In Jan­u­ary of 1995, the New York Dai­ly News ran an arti­cle head­lined “VAIN SHAPIRO DESERVES FATE,” and report­ed that Simp­son was “bench­ing” Shapiro in favor of John­nie Cochran, and that “legal leg­end F. Lee Bai­ley is expect­ed to assume an expand­ed role.” Shapiro believes that McNal­ly plant­ed the article—the detec­tive denies it—as part of a Machi­avel­lian cam­paign by Bai­ley to enhance his own role in the case. Shapiro says he stands by a state­ment he made to Bar­bara Wal­ters imme­di­ate­ly after the Simp­son acquit­tal: “I will not talk to F. Lee Bai­ley again.” At last month’s hear­ing in Ocala, he described their rela­tion­ship as “per­ma­nent­ly sev­ered.” Bai­ley sim­ply shrugs. “Shapiro is his­to­ry,” he says.

DUBOC had been right about BioChem Phar­ma. On Novem­ber 17, 1995, the company’s AIDS drug was approved by the Unit­ed States Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion; its shares had already begun to soar. By Jan­u­ary of this year, the stock had risen from about nine dol­lars a share to the high for­ties. Duboc had been sit­ting in jail in Tal­la­has­see for near­ly two years, and he was still await­ing sen­tenc­ing by Judge Paul. In order for Duboc to get any­thing less than life, he need­ed the pros­e­cu­tors to write the Judge a let­ter detail­ing all that he had done for the gov­ern­ment, but it was too soon to ask for the let­ter. He had pleased the pros­e­cu­tors by assist­ing the Roy­al Cana­di­an Mount­ed Police in a drug case in British Colum­bia, but after two years the hous­es in France remained unsold. And Bai­ley still had the BioChem shares. In the mean­time, Duboc says, Bai­ley was slow to return his calls, and Duboc rarely got to see him except on prison tele­vi­sion, per­form­ing at the Simp­son tri­al.
     Final­ly, ear­ly this year, Duboc decid­ed to fire Bai­ley and replace him with two lawyers at Coud­ert Broth­ers, the law firm that had advised him on his extra­di­tion bat­tle in Hong Kong. On Jan­u­ary 11th, the Coud­ert attor­neys appeared before Judge Paul, and Bai­ley sent, as his rep­re­sen­ta­tive, a Flori­da attor­ney named David Schultz. Dur­ing the hear­ing, Schultz made a sur­prise announce­ment: Bai­ley would, of course, with­draw from rep­re­sent­ing Claude Duboc, but he had no inten­tion of return­ing the BioChem stock. The pros­e­cu­tors were dumb­found­ed, and the fol­low­ing day Judge Paul issued an order to Bai­ley call­ing for a full account­ing of Duboc’s assets. The account­ing that Bai­ley sub­mit­ted a week lat­er did not include the stock. Paul then ordered Bai­ley to appear before him with the stock in hand and with all rel­e­vant finan­cial records.
  &nbUntil Feb­ru­ary 1st, the day before the hear­ing in Ocala, Bai­ley insist­ed that he was too busy with anoth­er case to show up. In less than two weeks, he would be defend­ing an alleged Gam­bi­no-crime-fam­i­ly asso­ciate named Joseph Watts, in fed­er­al court in Brook­lyn, on one mur­der and three mur­der-con­spir­a­cy counts. McGee informed Bailey’s lawyer that if he did not come a war­rant would be issued for his arrest. Bai­ley caught the last flight out of town, arriv­ing in Flori­da at mid­night, and walked into the Ocala court­room the next morn­ing at nine. Shapiro was already there, and so was Shohat, the Mia­mi lawyer who had found Bai­ley impos­si­ble to work with. Shapiro took a seat against the wall no more than ten feet from the defense table, plac­ing him­self direct­ly in Bailey’s line of vision. Next to Shapiro sat Claude Duboc, in leg irons.
     Bai­ley had come with two lawyers. One of them, Roger Zuck­er­man, the senior part­ner of a Wash­ing­ton law firm, had known Bai­ley for twen­ty-two years and helped defend Bai­ley in the last phase of the Dare to Be Great case in Orlan­do in the mid-sev­en­ties. Zuck­er­man, a bald­ing, well-spo­ken, earnest man, clear­ly hoped to defuse the ten­sion in the court­room and keep his client out of jail. It was not going to be easy. The BioChem Phar­ma stock, he said apolo­get­i­cal­ly, was not in the court­room, and he explained that the Swiss gov­ern­ment had frozen it, because the pre­vi­ous day Bailey’s lawyer in Gene­va had noti­fied the Swiss author­i­ties in a let­ter that the stock was alleged to be drug-taint­ed. (McGee was roused to sar­casm: “Drug money…has been there for eigh­teen months, and that let­ter goes out the day before this hear­ing. What a coin­ci­dence!”) As for the finan­cial records that Judge Paul had ordered, very lit­tle was in the court­room. Bai­ley, Zuck­er­man told the court, led “a fair­ly com­pli­cat­ed life,” and spent his mon­ey in “a myr­i­ad of ways,” and he believed that if he turned over his per­son­al bank­ing state­ments he might inad­ver­tent­ly com­pro­mise oth­er clients.
     Zuckerman’s peace­mak­ing mis­sion was made vast­ly more dif­fi­cult by Bailey’s bel­liger­ence. As the morn­ing wore on, Bai­ley, who had come to court in black cow­boy boots with two-inch heels, affect­ed a strut. When he sat down to be cross-exam­ined by McGee, he answered McGee’s per­func­to­ry “Good morn­ing” by say­ing sharply, “I don’t think so.” After a few more testy replies, Judge Paul called for a recess and asked Zuck­er­man to try to teach his client some restraint. Oth­er­wise, he said, Bai­ley would not have to wor­ry about prepar­ing for his tri­al in Brook­lyn, “because he will be a guest of the gov­ern­ment here.” Zuck­er­man did his best to oblige. “Mr. Bai­ley, would you try to con­trol your­self?” he said at one point.
     As Bai­ley spoke, Duboc shook his head in dis­be­lief. Bai­ley had sold about a third of the stock, before its steep climb in val­ue, net­ting $2.2 mil­lion, and he had tak­en a $2.3-million per­son­al loan from Cred­it Suisse, using as his col­lat­er­al the remain­ing shares, which were now worth about eigh­teen mil­lion. Of the four and a half mil­lion in cash that he had with­drawn, $1.1 mil­lion had been spent main­tain­ing the French real estate, four hun­dred and fifty thou­sand had gone toward legal expens­es relat­ed to Duboc, and about three mil­lion had sim­ply been spent by him per­son­al­ly. Bai­ley said that he could not recall where most of it went, but he believed that three hun­dred thou­sand had been spent as a down pay­ment on his new $1.2-million house in Man­ala­pan, Flori­da, near Palm Beach, and he thought about a hun­dred thou­sand had gone to an engi­neer­ing com­pa­ny that was doing some work on “an air­plane I was build­ing.” Bai­ley has since admit­ted that about $1.5 mil­lion of the mon­ey went direct­ly into Palm Beach Roamer, his air­craft-and-yacht com­pa­ny.
     Bai­ley con­tin­ued to insist that the stock had nev­er been giv­en to him as a trustee but had been paid to him “in fee simple”—but he added that, as the result of poor advice from an accoun­tant, he had not paid any income tax on the mon­ey. Though Bai­ley did not dis­close these fig­ures at the hear­ing, he has since revealed that from the time he got the stock through the end of 1995 it rep­re­sent­ed eighty per cent of his gross income.
     After Bai­ley stepped down, McGee called Ed Shohat, who seemed almost glee­ful to be tes­ti­fy­ing, and who stat­ed repeat­ed­ly his belief that Bai­ley had act­ed uneth­i­cal­ly. He said he had not seen a com­pa­ra­ble case of “self-deal­ing” by a lawyer in twen­ty-three years of prac­tice.
     Shapiro was next. He point­ed­ly con­tra­dict­ed Bai­ley at every turn, say­ing that in a con­ver­sa­tion at the time of the stock trans­fer Bai­ley was “very spe­cif­ic” in stat­ing that he had been appoint­ed to hold the stock as “a trustee.” McGee was clear­ly delight­ed with Shapiro’s tes­ti­mo­ny. As Shapiro left the court­room, a local reporter asked how it had felt to take the wit­ness stand against a for­mer friend. “Very painful,” Shapiro said. He smiled broad­ly.
    By now, it was almost 6 p.m., and Bailey’s lawyers had still not put for­ward their case. By order of Judge Paul, the hear­ing resumed the next morning—Saturday, Feb­ru­ary 3rd. Bai­ley took the stand once again, and made anoth­er poten­tial­ly dam­ag­ing admis­sion: he acknowl­edged being told that only Judge Paul could approve any legal fees, yet he had nev­er­the­less already paid him­self about six hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars in fees. Bai­ley con­tin­ued to main­tain that he was enti­tled to the mon­ey, because of the risk he had assumed in tak­ing pos­ses­sion of the stock. “I would nev­er have made an agree­ment where I took the down­side risk and turned over any gains,” he said. “It would have been insane.”
     McGee pounced: “Did you tell your client that? ‘Mr. Duboc! Made a heck of a deal for you. If this stock goes up to fifty, like you say, I’m going to make twen­ty mil­lion dol­lars!’”
     Up to this point, McGee had been firm­ly and indig­nant­ly in con­trol of the court­room. After Bai­ley con­clud­ed his tes­ti­mo­ny, how­ev­er, McGee made what seemed a tac­ti­cal error: he called his col­league Gre­go­ry Miller, as a rebut­tal wit­ness. Miller fared poor­ly on the stand, and Zuck­er­man was able to seize the momen­tum by mak­ing an issue of the government’s inex­plic­a­ble fail­ure to set down its agree­ment with Bai­ley on paper. Zuck­er­man asked Miller what pro­vi­sion had been made if the stock in Bailey’s bank account went to zero and noth­ing was left for a fee. No pro­vi­sion, Miller said, explain­ing, “That was a gam­ble he would have had to have tak­en.” Miller even admit­ted that he had no idea how well the BioChem stock had done until Jan­u­ary, when Bai­ley was replaced as coun­sel, though that infor­ma­tion had been read­i­ly avail­able in the news­pa­per. Zuck­er­man, in his clos­ing argu­ment, described the government’s fee arrange­ment with Bai­ley as “the most poor­ly nego­ti­at­ed and most poor­ly drafted…since the begin­ning of time.” (Fletch­er Bald­win, a pro­fes­sor of law at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Flori­da in Gainesville, and an author­i­ty on crim­i­nal for­fei­ture, says that both the pros­e­cu­tors and Bai­ley showed “incred­i­bly poor judg­ment” in fail­ing to memo­ri­al­ize their agree­ment on paper, and that Miller’s tes­ti­mo­ny might work to Bailey’s advan­tage if Bai­ley decides to lit­i­gate his right to the stock prof­its.)
     For once, McGee sound­ed chas­tened. “There may be room for crit­i­cism in this case,” he said. “We did in fact to some degree trust Mr. Bai­ley. And, Your Hon­or, we sin­cere­ly regret that trust.” At that point, McGee regained his fire, and pressed hard for Judge Paul to send F. Lee Bai­ley to jail.
     The Judge delib­er­at­ed for near­ly an hour and a half, and then returned to the bench. Bai­ley, he found, had shown no good-faith effort to com­ply with the court’s order to pro­duce the stock and the finan­cial doc­u­ments, and there­fore was in civ­il con­tempt. “For such con­tempt,” he said, “Mr. Bai­ley is sen­tenced to the cus­tody of the Attor­ney General”—meaning imprisonment—”for a peri­od of six months.” Bai­ley remained impas­sive. “How­ev­er, Mr. Bai­ley may purge him­self of such con­tempt,” Paul con­tin­ued, pro­vid­ed that by Feb­ru­ary 29th he turned over the stock and finan­cial doc­u­ments, and repaid the three mil­lion dol­lars he had tak­en, with­out the court’s per­mis­sion, for his per­son­al use. With that, the hear­ing was adjourned.

Two days lat­er, Bai­ley appeared before Charles Sifton, the Chief Judge of the East­ern Dis­trict of New York, in Brook­lyn, and was asked whether he would be too busy “scram­bling around” for the three mil­lion dol­lars to con­cen­trate on defend­ing Joe Watts. “I raised it last night,” Bai­ley said. “Can we get on with this case?” In fact, Bai­ley had not raised the mon­ey, and he had to come up with more than three mil­lion. In order to get back the stock, he first need­ed to pay off the $2.3-million loan he’d tak­en against it, so he was actu­al­ly $5.3 mil­lion in the hole.
     Nev­er­the­less, by the fol­low­ing Sat­ur­day, Feb­ru­ary 10th, Bai­ley was in fine spir­its. He was ensconced in an apart­ment on the Upper East Side that had belonged to the for­mer Colum­bia Pic­tures stu­dio head David Begel­man until his sui­cide, six months ear­li­er. Bai­ley had con­vert­ed it into a war room, with com­put­er equip­ment and an over­head pro­jec­tor, to pre­pare for his defense of Watts. As his wife, Pat­ty, served white wine and hors d’oeuvres to sev­er­al of his law asso­ciates hud­dled around a table, Bai­ley reflect­ed on his dust­up in Flori­da. He was wear­ing brown slip­per loafers and an aqua shirt, and looked utter­ly relaxed.
   “Let me tell you some­thing,” he said. “After some of the things I saw and did as a marine, this was like play­ing in the sand­box with a bunch of lit­tle boys. I have no fear of the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment or any of the bad peo­ple in it. My train­ing is to deal with ass­holes.” Bai­ley insist­ed he was ful­ly pre­pared to sue the gov­ern­ment for the right to keep the stock. “I do not intend to give it up,” he said. “I worked damn hard, and sweat­ed every day and night, and read the NASDAQ to try to decide whether to hold it or sell it.”
     Bai­ley had noth­ing but scorn for Shapiro and Shohat. “They were lying through their teeth, and I have a way to show it,” he said. “We’ll see how well they go through a poly­graph test.” His harsh­est com­ments, though, were aimed at Dave McGee. “I’ve got­ten mad at a lot of peo­ple and nev­er done any­thing, but this one’s going to be hard to for­get,” he said. “He’d bet­ter nev­er meet me com­ing around the cor­ner. No one stands up in an Amer­i­can court­room and calls me a thief. His fam­i­ly needs to know some pain. That was a dirty, filthy thing to do.” Any­way, he added, McGee had under­es­ti­mat­ed him. “He thought if he sent me to the can I’d knuck­le under,” Bai­ley said, with a con­temp­tu­ous half laugh. “Hell, I’d do six months stand­ing on my head for ten mil­lion dol­lars!”
     As the dead­line approached for com­ply­ing with Judge Paul’s order, how­ev­er, Bai­ley seemed to be los­ing his brava­do. He sud­den­ly had more time to con­cen­trate on rais­ing the mon­ey; the Joe Watts tri­al had end­ed abrupt­ly in a plea bar­gain. But even with his days free he could not scrape togeth­er any­thing close to $5.3 mil­lion.
     On Feb­ru­ary 27th, two days before the dead­line, Bai­ley and Zuck­er­man, his defense coun­sel, appeared before Paul to ask for a three-week exten­sion. As a ges­ture of good faith, Zuck­er­man said, Bai­ley was offer­ing the court title to any­thing he owned—his planes, his boats, even his house. Bai­ley sim­ply did not have much cash. His account at the Bar­nett Bank in Flori­da had a bal­ance of about twelve thou­sand dol­lars. The Judge was plain­ly incensed to hear about the bank bal­ance. On Jan­u­ary 12th, he had ordered a freeze on all BioChem pro­ceeds, and now, he was learn­ing, Bai­ley had with­drawn and spent more than three hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars from that account after the twelfth. (Bai­ley said he had not read the order.)
     One day before the dead­line, Bai­ley once again took the stand in Paul’s court­room in Ocala. This time, he didn’t strut. “I have worked day and night in every quad­rant where I have any clout what­so­ev­er to come up with the mon­ey,” Bai­ley said. Zuck­er­man looked exhaust­ed, and, dur­ing a break, he and Bai­ley were over­heard shout­ing at each oth­er. At the close of the hear­ing, McGee con­tin­ued to urge the Judge to put Bai­ley in jail. “He speaks of his gen­eros­i­ty,” McGee said. “He’s going to give you his home. The down pay­ment, three hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars, came from mon­ey he took from the Swiss account, mon­ey he stole from the tax­pay­ers. This is no gen­er­ous act.” Judge Paul ruled on the twen­ty-ninth. The request for more time was denied, and Bai­ley was ordered to com­ply by the fol­low­ing morn­ing or sur­ren­der to the Unit­ed States Mar­shal Ser­vice in Gainesville and begin serv­ing his six-month sen­tence for con­tempt at the fed­er­al deten­tion cen­ter in Tallahassee—the same facil­i­ty that hous­es Claude Duboc. Bai­ley then got a tem­po­rary reprieve from jail when the Eleventh Cir­cuit Court of Appeals, in Atlanta, stayed Paul’s order; a hear­ing was set for March 5th. Bailey’s legal bat­tle to remain free con­tin­ues. Mean­while, the Flori­da Bar has begun an inves­ti­ga­tion, and the Inter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice is expect­ed to fol­low suit. Some­where, pre­sum­ably, Bob Shapiro is smil­ing.♦