O.J. Simpson evidence hearing continued until Tuesday

Sunday, November 11, 2007

LAS VEGAS -- A man recruited to assist O.J. Simpson in seizing sports memorabilia from a hotel room testified at Simpson's preliminary hearing that he was pushed aside as others rushed in, followed by the former football great.

Charles Cashmore testified Friday, the second day of Simpson's hearing on armed robbery and kidnapping charges. The hearing, originally scheduled to end Friday, was continued until Tuesday.

Cashmore said he and Simpson friend Charles Ehrlich were "pushed to the side" as former Simpson co-defendants Michael McClinton and Walter Alexander rushed into the room at the Palace Station hotel-casino, followed by Simpson.

Simpson and others can be heard screaming angrily and swearing in an audio recording of the Sept. 13 confrontation played in court.

But on cross-examination, Simpson's Las Vegas attorney, Gabriel Grasso, suggested the plea deal Cashmore received from prosecutors colored his testimony. Under terms of the deal, Cashmore could get probation or up to five years in prison.

Cashmore, McClinton and Alexander took deals with prosecutors, agreeing to plead guilty to reduced felony charges and testify against Simpson, Clarence "C.J." Stewart and Ehrlich.

Simpson, 60, and Stewart and Ehrlich, both 53, face 12 criminal charges including armed robbery, kidnapping with a weapon and conspiracy. A kidnapping conviction could result in a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole. An armed robbery conviction could mean mandatory prison time.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joe M. Bonaventure continued the proceedings until Tuesday after Cashmore testified about his role as the last man recruited for Simpson's effort to retrieve sports memorabilia and personal items he claimed were his. Only four of eight witnesses expected to be called by prosecutors have yet to take the stand.

"You were the odd man out?" Clark County District Attorney David Roger asked Cashmore, 40, after questioning him about being introduced to Simpson by Stewart, a mutual friend.

McClinton, 49, of Las Vegas, and Alexander, 46, of Mesa, Ariz., have yet to testify. They have told authorities that Simpson not only saw guns, but suggested firearms be brought to the room where Simpson wanted to retrieve game balls, jerseys, photos and other memorabilia he said were his.

Alexander's lawyer, Robert Dennis Rentzer, said his client was due to be the next witness but Roger told them late Friday that he'll be called Tuesday or Wednesday. Courts will be closed Monday for Veterans Day.

Cashmore, who pleaded guilty to accessory to robbery, testified that he saw two men with guns during the hotel room confrontation with memorabilia dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley.

But he also said he heard Simpson say several times that he never saw a gun.

Grasso argued that Cashmore became a minor celebrity after the incident and has been giving interviews on television shows.

He did an interview as recently as Thursday night, which concerned Bonaventure, although he rejected a defense motion to strike Cashmore's testimony.

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