F. Lee Bailey — portrayed in the upcoming The People vs OJ Simpson: An American Crime Story by Nathan Lane — was a defense attorney in several high profile criminal cases such as the Boston Strangler, Patty Hearst, the Duboc case and Sam Sheppard, amongst other notables.
However, as Simpson’s defense attorney, his cross-examination of former LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman is widely considered, by many, to be the main contributor to Simpson’s acquittal.
Less than a year out of Boston University School of Law, Bailey went on to become one of the most successful criminal lawyers in American history. At 82-years-old, Bailey — currently disbarred — is still active in numerous business affairs from his small town office in Yarmouth, Maine.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Was Disbarred From Massachusetts & Florida
Bailey was disbarred in Florida in 2001 and both the state and federal courts of Massachusetts on April 11, 2003. His Florida disbarment was a result of him handling stock while representing marijuana dealer Claude DuBoc. Bailey transferred a considerable amount of DuBoc’s assets into his very own accounts. The respective stock — taken by Bailey to prevent it from being sold immediately if it was in government possession — was should’ve been included in the forfeiture of assets for DuBoc’s plea bargain.
Bailey held the stock — worth an estimated $5.9 million — which was slated to largely increase in value. Later, he refused to give it up because it was money for his legal services, and not related to DuBoc’s asset forfeiture. Bailey also said that the stock was collateral for loans he received and couldn’t be sold until the repayment of loans.
Bailey’s brother raised the money that released him from prison and allowed the government to receive the stock. The Florida Supreme court ultimately found him guilty on seven counts of attorney misconduct, leading to his disbarment. Bailey tried regaining his law license in Massachusetts, but it failed.
Bailey spoke to ABA Journal on April 10, 2014 after he was again rejected by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to practice law again.
“I was very disappointed, but I’m afraid I saw it coming. After 60 years as an attorney, I’ve learned how to read people and read their expressions, particularly from looking at their eyes. The only thing I could have done further would be to admit some form of guilt which I don’t think I was guilty of. My remorse for what I did is in the record.”
2. He’s a Widower That’s Been Married Four Times
Bailey’s first marriage — in his mid twenties — to Florence Gott in 1960 was short-lived. They divorced in 1961. He then tied the knot to Froma Portney in 1972, and they were divorced that same year. Although his last marriage didn’t have the same outcome, he lost Patricia Shiers — who he married in 1985 — but to pancreatic cancer in 1999.
Prior to Patricia’s death, Bailey was forced to miss an Orlando court hearing in order to be by his wife’s side at a Vero Beach Cancer Center. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Palm Beach Attorney Richard Lubin appeared before US Magistrate James Glazebrook, asking him to postpone Bailey’s hearing.
“Her vital organs have shut down. He is in no condition to assist me or testify.”
Lucin was granted permission to represent Bailey as Glazebrook issued the following response:
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Mr. Bailey needs to be with his wife over the next few days.”
3. He Dropped Out of Harvard to Serve in the US Marine Corps
Bailey graduated in the class of 1950 from Kimball Union Academy. While he attended Harvard College, he ultimately dropped out in 1952 to join the US Marine Corps. Bailey received his Naval Aviator wings in 1954 after being commissioned as an officer and finishing his flight training. After serving as a jet pilot, he started serving as a squadron legal officer.
Bailey went back to Harvard briefly prior to his acceptance to Boston University Law in 1957. He graduated with a Bachelor of Laws. in 1960, ranking first in his class. The college accepted his military experience in place of its usual requirement for students to complete a minimum of three years of undergraduate college courses.
4. He Has a Net Worth of Five Million
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Bailey has a net worth of five million dollars.
Although Bailey wasn’t bad off, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Bailey had less assets than meets the eye. Hence, one of America’s most famous lawyers was fighting to keep up his image.
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 a reporter he owned. In fact Bailey testified under oath in Orlando last month that he had only a 1983 Mercedes and no boat.
5. He’s a Best Selling Author
With Bailey’s long career — which included several notable interviews like the one above — certainly comes a huge body of accomplishments; one of which is being an author. From his first one in 1960 to his most recent in 2008, Bailey has written 16 books on various aspects of the criminal court system. Those various reads ranged from him writing about criminal defense to protection against law enforcement.
Books aside, Bailey also made speeches for $10,000 each, according to Notable Biographies.