F. Lee Bailey, lawyer for O.J., files for bankruptcy

Joel Rosenblatt
Bloomberg News

F. Lee Bailey, a defense attorney who gained fame for his work in two sensational 1960s cases and later was part of O.J. Simpson’s “Dream Team,” filed for personal bankruptcy, saying he’s more than $5 million in debt.

Besides Simpson, a former football star found not guilty in 1995 of the murder of his ex-wife and a friend, Bailey represented Claude Duboc, who was accused in 1994 and later convicted of importing large amounts of marijuana into the U.S.

Bailey said in a phone interview that his bankruptcy filing stems from the case against Duboc. He said he was paid by Duboc in shares of a Canadian pharmaceutical company, an arrangement Bailey said the U.S. government approved and then rejected after the price of the stock more than quadrupled. The U.S. argued that Bailey was acting as its trustee and reclaimed the money, he said.

“They demanded it back for one reason,” Bailey said. “They were afraid they would look foolish for allowing a defense lawyer to take a fee that pegged out at $20 million.”

IRS dispute

Bailey said he spent time in jail for resisting the government claims and has been locked in a battle with the Internal Revenue Service for 22 years over the proceeds. He was also disbarred as a result of the case.

“There’s no point in fighting anymore,” Bailey said, adding that through bankruptcy, he aims to dispose of any debt claimed by the the government. “I expect the bankruptcy will run its usual course.”

Bailey is a principal at Bailey & Elliott Consulting, based in Yarmouth, Maine, offering advice to small and medium-sized companies. It provides guidance on how to form a company, raise funds and streamline operations, according to its website.

Earlier in his life, Bailey won a scholarship to Harvard University and left in 1952 to join the U.S. Marine Corps as a fighter pilot, according to West’s Encyclopedia of American Law.

Bailey became a national figure in the early 1960s when he convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to set aside the murder conviction of Cleveland physician Sam Sheppard, who was found innocent in a retrial. The case inspired the television series “The Fugitive." He also defended the suspect in the so-called Boston Strangler killings, Albert DeSalvo, and publishing heiress Patty Hearst.

The bankruptcy petition, filed Friday in Maine, said assets in property total $408,176 and liabilities to creditors $5.6 million. Bailey listed monthly income of $7,119 and expenses of $6,111.

The case is 16-20375, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Maine (Portland).