F. Lee Bailey Faces Prison in Contempt Case
ATLANTA (AP) _ A federal appeals court cleared the way for F. Lee Bailey to begin serving a six-month prison sentence for failing to turn over millions in cash and stock from a drug-dealer client.
In a hearing before a packed courtroom Tuesday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a temporary order it issued Thursday granting Bailey a reprieve on the eve of his prison sentence.
That sent the case back to a district judge in Ocala, Fla., who last month found the high-profile defense lawyer in contempt and ordered him to prison.
The three-judge panel directed District Court Judge Maurice Paul to set a time and place for Bailey to begin serving the sentence.
Paul didn’t immediately respond to messages left at his office and home after-hours Tuesday. But Chief Deputy Marshal Ron Wierenga of the U.S. Marshal’s service said Paul should decide Bailey’s fate today.
Lawyer Ed Garland, a longtime friend who sat next to Bailey during the hearing, said Bailey can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or ask Paul for more time.
Bailey said his former client gave him the assets _ $3 million in cash and $18.7 million in stock now worth $25 million _ for legal fees and expenses in a drug trafficking case.
Prosecutors claim most of it belongs to the government as part of a forfeiture the drug dealer agreed to in a plea bargain, and that Bailey was supposed to take only fees and expenses and turn over the rest.
Courts have not settled that dispute, though the appeals judges promised a hearing would be expedited. Paul had ordered Bailey to post the money and stock by Friday pending a resolution of the dispute.
During the hearing, Bailey’s attorney, Roger E. Zuckerman, said Bailey has deposited $700,000 of the money with the court and produced nearly all the required documents.
Bailey, whose clients have included O.J. Simpson, Patty Hearst and ``Boston Strangler″ Albert DeSalvo, said he will try to line up a letter of credit to cover the remaining $2.3 million. ``I have acted in good faith from Day One,″ he said.
Bailey has offered to pledge all of his $4.5 million in assets, ``the ultimate act of submission,″ Zuckerman told Judges J.L. Edmundson, Phyllis Kravich and Ed Carnes.
Carnes appeared unimpressed. The record, Carnes said, shows that Bailey has been ``clutching, clawing and scraping to keep″ his assets.