Prosecutors file charges against O.J. Simpson
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
LAS VEGAS -- Prosecutors filed formal charges Tuesday against O.J. Simpson, alleging the fallen football star committed 10 felonies, including kidnapping, in the armed robbery of sports memorabilia collectors in a casino-hotel room.
Simpson was arrested Sunday after a collector reported a group of armed men charged into his hotel room and took several items Simpson claimed belonged to him.
Simpson, 60, was booked on five felony counts, including suspicion of assault and robbery with a deadly weapon. District Attorney David Roger filed those charges and added five other felonies, including kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping, according to court documents.
Simpson, accused along with three other men, faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted in the robbery at the Palace Station casino. He is being held without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned today.
According to the charges, Simpson and the others went to the hotel room under the pretext of brokering a deal with Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong, two longtime collectors of Simpson memorabilia.
Once in the room, Simpson prevented one of the collectors from calling 911 on his cell phone "by ripping it out of Fromong's hand" while one or more accomplices pointed or displayed a handgun.
The complaint does not specify which of the men involved was carrying the weapon.
The kidnapping charge accuses the men of detaining each of the men "against his will, and without his consent, for the purpose of committing a robbery."
Fromong, a crucial witness in the case, was in critical condition in a Los Angeles hospital on Tuesday, after suffering a heart attack Monday, according to a spokeswoman at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Beardsley has said he does not want to pursue the case.
Simpson's lawyer, Yale Galanter, said he planned to ask for Simpson's release on his own recognizance.
"If it was anyone other than O.J. Simpson, he would have been released by now," Galanter said.
Simpson has insisted that he was not armed and that he went to the hotel simply to retrieve property that had been stolen from him.
"You can't rob something that is yours," Galanter said. "O.J. said, 'You've got stolen property. Either you return it or I call the police."'
Witnesses and authorities have said that they don't believe Simpson had a gun but that some of the men who accompanied him during the confrontation were armed.
Two others named in the complaint, Walter Alexander and Clarence Stewart, have been arrested and released. Authorities were seeking an arrest warrant for a fourth man, Michael McClinton, 49, of Las Vegas, a man police describe as "a key player" in the alleged theft.
"We hope to have him in custody today," said officer Ramon Denby, a police spokesman. "Hopefully, he'll be cooperative and surrender with his attorney."
Some of the missing goods, including autographed footballs, were turned in Monday by Stewart, 53, of Las Vegas, before he was released on $78,000 bail.
Alexander, 46, of Mesa, Ariz., said Tuesday that Simpson may have been tricked because another memorabilia dealer who tipped him off also recorded everything on tape.
"It sounds like a setup to me," Alexander told ABC's "Good Morning America." He said Simpson had thought the memorabilia belonged to him after getting a call from the dealer, Tom Riccio.
Riccio, who reportedly sold the audio to the celebrity gossip Web site TMZ.com, said Tuesday that Simpson hatched the idea himself.
"O.J. came up with some way-out ideas before I finally agreed to the last one, which didn't go the way he said it would go. I didn't do anything wrong was the bottom line," Riccio told Fox News Channel.
Simpson and the other three men are charged with two counts of first-degree kidnapping; two counts of robbery with use of a deadly weapon; burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon; two counts of assault with a deadly weapon; conspiracy to commit kidnapping; conspiracy to commit robbery; and a misdemeanor, conspiracy to commit a crime.
Simpson also faces one charge of coercion with use of a deadly weapon, a felony.
Asked whether the number of new charges seemed extreme, given the circumstances, a leading Las Vegas defense attorney said prosecutors often aim high.
"It's typical for them to allege as many crimes as they believe they can establish probable cause for, knowing that to some degree it may not completely pan out that way. It adds to the pressure on the defendant for the purpose of negotiation," said David Chesnoff, adding that the charges make it likely Simpson will be asked to post a "very high bail."
Simpson was acquitted more than a decade ago of the 1994 killings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Goldman's son, Ron. He was later found liable in a wrongful-death trial.
The civil jury returned a $33.5 million judgment against Simpson, but it remains largely unpaid. The Goldman family has waged a campaign to claim Simpson's assets since then.
Earlier Tuesday in California, a judge gave Goldman's father, Fred, a week to come up with a list of sports memorabilia that Simpson is accused of stealing from the Vegas hotel room, but he refused to order Simpson to hand over his earnings from everything from autograph signings to video games.
In court in Santa Monica, David Cook, an attorney for Fred Goldman, accused Simpson of "sitting on a treasure trove of sports memorabilia" while ignoring the multimillion-dollar judgment. But both Cook and Simpson lawyer Ronald Slates said they had no idea what the items were, and Slates argued it was unclear whether Simpson really owned any of them.
Cook also filed a new request to get Simpson's watch, which he described as a Rolex Submariner that he saw the former football star wearing in a photo featured on the celebrity Web site TMZ.com. Such watches sell for $5,000 or more, he said.
He also argued that Simpson was wealthy, citing a 2003 tax form indicating income of $400,000.
Slates noted Simpson has expenses for his three children. "He has a right, like everybody else, to be protected (under the law)," Slates said.
Slates also said Simpson has repeatedly offered to settle the judgment with the Goldman family.
"It is inconceivable that the father of a murder victim would sit and haggle," Cook said.