F. Lee Bailey on the Mueller Report, O.J. Simpson's Innocence and His Hatred for Marcia Clark
In a lengthy interview with HuffPost, the famed defense attorney, now 85 and disbarred from practicing law in several states, also took shots at Bob Shapiro and CNN's Jeffrey Toobin: "He will say whatever he wants to say, whether it's true or not."
In a lengthy new interview, F. Lee Bailey, the pugnacious attorney who defended O.J. Simpson during his sensational 1995 murder trial, revisted the controversial case, reaffirming his client's innocence, and offered new insight into his long-running feuds with former colleague Bob Shapiro and adversary Marcia Clark, the public prosecutor on the case that gripped America.
Speaking to HuffPost Highline, Bailey also took the opportunity to opine on America's current national legal obsession, Robert Mueller's investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as reporting about it on cable news, aiming his ire at CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin in particular.
At his height of his career, Bailey was the most famed and feared lawyer in America, but today the man who was the progenitor of the ubiquitous and fame-hungry defense attorney lives in relative obscurity in Maine. Now 85 and working for a small law consultancy firm, he owes millions to the IRS has been disbarred in several states, a situation far removed from his previous jet-set life.
Below are five key takeaways from HuffPost Highline's interview with Bailey.
O.J. Simpson's innocence
Bailey, who still sees Simpson "frequently," spends much of the interview rehashing the 1995 trial, emphasizing his fury that public opinion in the aftermath of the trial poisoned the former NFL star's attempts to rehabilitate his reputation. Bailey reaffirms that he believes Simpson "was completely innocent" of the June 1994 murder of his estranged wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman, suggesting that the pair were killed by "hit men from Colombia who weren’t very bright."
Bailey expounds on his theory about the real culprits, suggesting that drug dealers were looking for Brown's friend Faye Resnick over an unpaid drug debt. "The purpose of killing people who don't pay their cocaine debts is to set an example," Bailey speculates. He puts forward that Brown was killed by mistake, and that "Ron Goldman was just very unfortunate."
When challenged by the HuffPost on domestic violence allegations against Simpson that dated back into the 1980s and stretched until at least October 1993, Bailey dismisses them, suggesting that attempts to link previous allegations of abuse to the murders was "f—— crazy."
"On one occasion, they got into a physical fight — I think it was on New Year’s — and she wound up with some bruises. He said she started it, and she probably got the best of it. Nobody bothered to photograph him. But he knew that was wrong. He went in and pled guilty and did community service," Bailey says.
He adds: "All the other allegations came from [Mark Fuhrman], who said he went there one time and O.J. had busted the windshield of her Mercedes, which he had given her, and that story is true to an extent. Nicole liked to screw around a lot."
HuffPost asks Bailey why, decades later, he was still consumed by the Simpson case, and he responds that it infuriated him "to be congratulated on 'getting him off,'" adding, "That is not the same as vindicating an innocent man." He decries the fact that public opinion on Simpson had solidified after the infamous Bronco chase that captivated a country. He restates that the Bronco chase was relatively innocuous, with Simpson merely driving to visit his late wife's grave in the cemetery, and says he was offended that people assumed it was the "ultimate expression of guilt."
"I get blamed for prostituting my talents to 'get a guilty n—— off.' I have been told that by lawyers and judges, and I find it to be disgusting," Bailey says.
His hatred for Marcia Clark
Asked about Marcia Clark, the lead public prosecutor in the Simpson trial, Bailey doesn't hold back, dismissing claims of misogyny suffered by Clark during the trial and barely hiding his hatred toward her. Prodded about whether he regrets the way Clark was treated during the trial, both by Simpson's legal team and the public, Bailey says, "Oh, s— no," adding that Clark was the one who "changed her [hair] because she didn't think she looked glamorous enough." Bailey describes Clark as "a second- or third-rate lawyer" who "didn't do a good job" and says that she "hit on everybody but Bob Shapiro." He also brings up Clark's reported relationship with fellow public prosecutor Christopher Darden and her own legal problems stemming from a custody case as issues that impeded her ability to prosecute the case. Bailey concludes by saying that he has "nothing good to say about Marcia Clark."
His long-running feud with Bob Shapiro
Simpson's 1995 legal team was dubbed the "Dream Team" in the media, and it included the likes of Bob Shapiro and, most famously, Johnnie Cochran. Bailey and Shapiro have had a long and very public feud that began during the Simpson trial. Bailey tells HuffPost that Shapiro was the "only conflict" on the team, and that Simpson and the other lawyers tried to fire him for being an "asshole" but didn't, as Shapiro threatened to go public with his opinion that Simpson was guilty. "O.J. knew that would be devastating before the trial, so we kept Bob aboard, but he remained a pain in the ass throughout the trial," Bailey says.
Outlining a litany of grievances, Bailey claims that Shapiro tried to block his fees for working on the case and almost ruined Simpson's defense by having him take a polygraph test. Bailey also claims that Shapiro, without notifying him or Cochran, tried to talk Simpson into "taking a dive" — that is, accepting a plea bargain of manslaughter with the public prosecutor to reduce a possible sentence. Bailey says Shapiro's plea idea "came out of nowhere. He hadn’t even talked it over with the prosecution," and that he likely suggested it as Shapiro "had never tried a murder case."
He adds: "[Shapiro's] only accomplishments in life were copping pleas and pretending that his special connections got a great deal for his clients. So the only way he could appear to be an important figure in the case was to be the guy who engineered a plea. It was desperation. It was silly. By that point, Johnnie and I wouldn’t have let O.J. plead to spitting on the sidewalk, because the prosecution didn’t have any evidence. All they had was a glove — you either tied the glove to O.J. or you didn’t, and they couldn’t."
Bailey laments the number of people who worked on the case who ended up turning on Simpson afterwards. "If you look at the most famous photograph from the end of the trial, it tells the story. Nearest the camera is me, with the smile of the Cheshire cat. Standing next to me is O.J., saying 'God damn right' and showing his fists and a smile. Next to him is Johnnie Cochran saying, 'No shit, Bailey was right.' And behind Johnnie Cochran is Bob Shapiro looking disgusted and heading out of the courtroom to torpedo his client and all of his colleagues. And indeed, he did so on that day, on the Barbara Walters interview."
On Alan Dershowitz, Attorney General Bill Barr and Robert Mueller
Bailey describes Dershowitz, another star lawyer on Simpson's legal team, as a contrarian and says the Harvard law professor's conspicuous and very public defense of Donald Trump during the Mueller probe was an attempt to reclaim the spotlight: "[Dershowitz] also hasn’t seen any action in quite a while and likes to be controversial."
On the subject of the Mueller report, Bailey says the special counsel was being "very conservative" in not making a call for obstruction of justice against Trump. "[Mueller] could have decided that obstruction occurred even if it couldn’t be prosecuted. But I think he had a deal with William Barr. Their relationship is well known, and I think Barr said to Mueller, 'If you only go so far, I’ll support it.' Mueller believed that if he laid out the evidence, Barr would be the one to say it was obstruction, and he plainly feels double-crossed now."
Bailey suggests that Barr in essence lied about the findings, tacitly agreeing with the position of Nancy Pelosi. "When you’re a public official giving testimony before Congress, it’s not enough to give a narrow answer that conceals the truth. You have to be forthcoming. What Nancy was saying is, 'You were not forthcoming, which is tantamount to lying.' And indeed it is. Many people have been convicted in federal court for withholding. It’s treated the same as lying."
His dismissal of CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin
In discussing the Mueller probe, Bailey is ambivalent about the quality of cable news legal analysis to break down the complexity of big cases. "The media has illuminated some of the imbalances in the way people of different races are treated in criminal law, so they deserve credit for that. On the other hand, the press has grown more cynical. The reliance on lawyers who purport to be experts, when they wouldn’t be allowed in traffic court — that just cheapens the process," he says.
Bailey picks out Jeffrey Toobin for particular criticism, suggesting that the CNN legal analyst isn't qualified to opine on such topics as he "doesn’t have any legal experience," adding that "his credentials are in question." When pressed on the subject of Toobin, Bailey says it is "not just that he gets the facts wrong."
"Jeffrey interviews you and then he publishes whatever looks best for himself. He will say whatever he wants to say, whether it’s true or not," Bailey says.
Read the full HuffPost Highline interview here.