Florida's highest court disbars defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey for handling of client's funds

Wednesday, November 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ F. Lee Bailey, the combative defense attorney whose clients have included Patty Hearst and O.J. Simpson, was disbarred in Florida on Wednesday.

The state Supreme Court cited his mishandling of nearly $6 million in stock owned by a drug-smuggling client.

Bailey, 68, was given 30 days to close out his practice in Florida.

He is also a member of the Massachusetts Bar. Officials in Massachusetts did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

His office said he was unavailable for comment. His lawyer Bruce Rogow was said to be out of the country and unavailable.

Bailey represented Claude Duboc in a 1994 drug case and worked out a deal under which his client would plead guilty and forfeit his assets to the federal government. Duboc is serving a life sentence.

The lawyer said he took a portion of Duboc's assets _ 600,000 shares of stock worth nearly $6 million _ as payment for his services. But prosecutors claimed the stock was supposed to be turned over to the government.

Bailey initially refused to relinquish control of the stock but changed his mind after almost six weeks in a federal prison in 1996.

The Supreme Court said Bailey committed ``the most serious and basic trust account violations.''

``From the day it was transferred to him, Bailey treated the money as his own,'' the court said. It said he sold some of the stock, obtained a line of credit on it and mixed the money with money in his own bank account.

Under the order barring him from practicing law in Florida, Bailey cannot reapply for admission to the bar for five years. After that, he would have to retake the bar exam and undergo a background and character check.

Bailey also represented confessed Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo and gained prominence for his role in the case of Sam Sheppard, an Ohio doctor convicted of killing his wife in 1954. The case partly inspired the movie and TV series ``The Fugitive.''

After Bailey took over the case, the Supreme Court overturned the verdict in 1966, citing heavy pre-trial publicity. Sheppard was acquitted in a retrial.