TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — F. Lee Bailey was released from jail on his 44th day behind bars Friday after surrendering $16 million in disputed stock and his 74-foot yacht.
The defense attorney was jailed after U.S. District Judge Maurice Paul slapped him with a contempt-of-court charge for failing to hand over 400,000 shares of stock from a former drug-dealer client.
As he left jail, Bailey said Paul's decision was overly harsh.
"I don't know what I did to tick this judge off," he said. "But I certainly haven't learned anything I didn't know before. I feel it was unnecessary, that I was steamrollered."
He was released after he agreed to terms a federal prosecutor assured would put a "financial noose" around Bailey.
"It's very inconvenient, but I will survive," Bailey said before he was whisked to the Tallahassee airport, where his small plane awaited to return him to his home in West Palm Beach, Fla.
The stock in Biochem Pharma, a Canadian company, was among assets that belonged to Claude Duboc, a former Bailey client awaiting sentencing.
Bailey, 62, contends that the stock was given as payment for his legal fees and expenses. Prosecutors said the assets were forfeited by Duboc and belong to the government.
The judge has set a hearing for May 20 to settle the question of ownership, but he wanted the shares surrendered in the meantime.
Bailey's 36-year career has included defending the Boston Strangler, Patty Hearst, Dr. Sam Sheppard and O.J. Simpson.
Because Bailey sold some of the stock and spent the money, he was required to surrender his $1.9-million yacht, Spellbound, plus $700,000 within a year. He also must get written approval for any personal expense of more than $10,000 until the $700,000 is paid off.
"Frankly, we do not trust Mr. Bailey," Assistant U.S. Atty. David McGee told the judge in urging him to accept the pact. "It has required us to construct a financial noose through which we think he could not slip."
The judge said Bailey could be sent back to jail if he doesn't pay the $700,000 within a year.
Bailey did not seem humbled by his stay in prison.
"I feel like we've wasted 43 days. I don't think it accomplished anything," Bailey said.
He insisted that the stock belongs to him and said he would fight to win it back. "I want a fair trial before a jury and I'm quite satisfied that at the end of the day we'll prevail," he said.