Daniel G. Lilley, for decades one of Maine’s most prominent and effective criminal defense attorneys, died Saturday evening, according to friends and former associates.

Lilley, who lived in Falmouth, was 79 and had been hospitalized for a few days, said F. Lee Bailey of Yarmouth, a close friend.

Bailey, himself a famed criminal defense lawyer who was part of the defense team at O.J. Simpson’s murder trial in the mid-1990s, said Lilley was the “greatest” criminal defense attorney Maine has ever seen.

“I think he is going to be sorely missed,” Bailey said during a telephone interview Sunday night. “He liked to get a good result in the courtroom. That to me is the hallmark of a good defense attorney.”

Bailey said that while Lilley sometimes came across as gruff and aggressive in the courtroom, underneath that facade was a good, kind-hearted person.

“People are surprised to find out that a criminal defense lawyer doesn’t have two heads, that they have a heart as well,” Bailey said.

Another colleague of Lilley’s, Stephen Schwartz, a Portland criminal defense attorney, called him “a brilliant trial lawyer” whose death is “a huge loss to the trial community of Maine.”

During Schwartz’s career as a defense attorney, he said he worked on several cases with Lilley. He called him a “maverick” courtroom lawyer who defended his clients with great passion and, if necessary, dramatic flair.

“He was really a champion of the accused,” said Schwartz, who founded the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in 1992. Lilley was one of the organization’s original board members. “I think everyone in the court system respected him for his abilities,” Schwartz said.

He said Lilley became the go-to lawyer in high-profile cases that on the surface seemed impossible to win.

In 1985, he defended Tony DiMillo of DiMillo’s Restaurant and Lounge, who was acquitted of tax evasion, WCSH-TV reported. In 1990, Jackie Bevins of Ogunquit was charged with murder after allegedly shooting her husband 15 times, and reloading her gun in the process. Lilley used a “battered wife syndrome” defense, and Bevins was acquitted.

“I just found out about it and I am devastated,” Bevins said of Lilley’s death when contacted Sunday night by the Portland Press Herald.

In 2013, Lilley represented Mark Strong Sr., a defendant in the Zumba prostitution scandal in Kennebunk. Strong was found guilty in York County Superior Court of 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiring to promote prostitution. Prosecutors argued that Strong and Zumba instructor Alexis Wright worked together.

Tina Heather Nadeau, a Portland-based criminal defense attorney, served as Lilley’s co-counsel in the Zumba case, which attracted national attention. Even in a case as difficult as that, Nadeau said Lilley’s sense of humor remained intact.

Nadeau said she remembers conferring in private with Lilley about arguing a motion before Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills.

“I remember telling Dan that it would be proper to use the word ‘whorehouse’ in court because Shakespeare used it, and that it would lend potency to the argument that the johns had no valid expectation of privacy when they visited the studio to engage a prostitute in sexual acts for money. When court resumed, he dropped that bomb in his argument, which made Justice Mills’ eyebrows reach her hairline. He chuckled about that one for a few days,” Nadeau said in an email.

Nadeau said she was surprised when she heard that Lilley had died. His reputation as one of the state’s best defense attorneys gave him an aura of invincibility.

“I never for a moment thought that anyone on earth would outlive him,” Nadeau said Sunday night. “I was convinced he would live forever.”

Amber Tucker worked with Lilley for the past two years as his senior associate counsel. Tucker worked as co-counsel with Lilley on his last case, representing Matthew Davis of Houlton during his murder trial in Machias. Davis was convicted in December in the shooting deaths of an Oakfield couple at their home three years ago.

“He was a wonderful mentor and friend,” Tucker said in an email. “Dan took his obligations to his clients very seriously, always making them a priority.”

She said Lilley’s law firm in Portland “is dedicated to ensuring a smooth transition” for his clients. “In that spirit, the staff will be in the office tomorrow and personally reaching out to each client, assuring them that they continue to be a priority. He will be greatly missed by all of us.”

Schwartz noted that another one of Maine’s leading criminal defense attorneys died last year. Peter DeTroy III, 68, of Portland died of cardiac arrest while riding his bike near his home.

Lilley’s obituary was not available Sunday, but Bailey said Lilley’s family informed him that there will not be a traditional funeral service.

“There will be some type of celebratory event down the road,” Bailey said.

According to Lilley’s LinkedIn page, he graduated from the Boston University School of Law in 1967. He is the owner of the Daniel G. Lilley Law Offices, 39 Portland Pier, which is located on the Portland waterfront.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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