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October 31, 2014

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Witness: Someone shouted ‘put the gun down’ in O.J. Simpson hotel incident

Trial to continue at 8 a.m. Wednesday as technical experts testify about audio recording

Updated Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008 | 11:32 p.m.

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Bruce Fromong displays a signed photo entered into evidence during O.J. Simpson's trial in Las Vegas, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008.

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Defense attorneys continued to try to pick apart memorabilia dealer Bruce Fromong’s testimony and previous statements Tuesday as O.J. Simpson's kidnapping/robbery trial entered its second day.

Simpson, 61, and his former golfing buddy, Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, 54, are both charged with a dozen robbery, weapons and kidnapping-related offenses. The charges stem from a run-in with two memorabilia dealers, Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong, in a Las Vegas hotel last year.

Fromong returned to court Tuesday morning after leaving the stand early Monday because of apparent chest pains.

He asked Judge Jackie Glass to halt proceedings as Simpson’s lawyer, Garbiel Grasso, was delivering a litany of questions concerning the scene that unfolded inside a Place Station hotel room last year.

Fromong said on Monday that someone loudly said, “put the gun down, put the gun down,” during the confrontation, but he couldn’t say who.

This account was key, as Fromong had not previously mentioned the instructions ever having been shouted, despite filing reports with police and meeting with prosecutors.

The revelation didn’t come up during the preliminary hearing, either, even though both sides had access to what prosecutors claim is an audio recording of the event.

When Fromong returned to the stand Tuesday morning, Glasso picked up where he left off the day before, zeroing in on some of the contradictions in Fromong’s accounts.

Fromong previously said both of the alleged gunmen, Michael McClinton and Walter Alexander, drew their weapons. As he testified this week, however, he said only one of the two guns was ever used.

The witness also told police that the men who entered the hotel room were black. However, two of the men in the entourage, Charles Ehrlich and Charles Cashmore, are white.

Other contradictions included whether or not he felt afraid during the confrontation –- he has said previously, while under oath, that he was scared during the altercation but on Tuesday told Stewart’s lawyer, Robert Lucherini, that he was not scared at the time –- and the description of the suspects, who he previously said physically resembled “thugs,” but also stated they “looked like businessmen” both in a statement to police and while on the stand Tuesday.

A visibly-annoyed Fromong defended his contradictions, saying he was on edge after the run-in with Simpson and his crew. “I was very nervous and upset,” Fromong said. “Some of my statements that evening were inconsistent.”

The defense alleged Fromong, along with Beardsley and the man who arranged their meeting with Simpson, Thomas Riccio, was money-hungry and looking for ways to cash in on the ordeal.

Glasso questioned Fromong’s ethics and asked him why he called a producer at the entertainment news program, “Inside Edition,” almost immediately after the alleged crime took place, before police or hotel security were even on the scene.

“You were doing that to profit off of this,” Galasso said. “You wanted big money.”

A day earlier, Fromong said it was Beardsley who gleefully mentioned that they would be able to sell their story for a considerable about of money.

At the time, Fromong said he disregarded the comment.

“My reply was I don’t give a shit,” he said on Monday.

But the court heard a Fromong sing a different tune on Tuesday as the defense played an excerpt from an audio recording of the moments following the alleged robbery. On the tape, Fromong assures Beardsley and Riccio, “I’ll have Inside Edition down here before it’s tomorrow, I told them I want big money.”

The defense also asked Fromong why, if he wasn’t looking to profit off of the incident, he listed items on eBay and said in the product description that they were the same items as the ones Simpson allegedly stole from him.

Fromong told the court Tuesday that he felt many of the items that once belonged to Simpson that were taken from the hotel room should have been returned to their original owner.

“It wasn’t a question about money,” Fromong said. “I didn’t want any money back for them. I believe those items belong to Mr. Simpson’s family. They should go to his kids.”

“If O.J. and I could’ve sat down, we’re good friends, we could’ve come to some type of other arrangements besides money,” he said. “He could’ve signed some photos for me, we could’ve talked about it.”

Fromong testified Monday about the established relationship he and Simpson had. At one point, Fromong even called the Heisman Trophy winner his “best friend.”

District Attorney David Roger also took a swipe at Fromong’s character on Tuesday, making sure to deliver a hit to Simpson’s reputation at the same time.

Roger had Fromong confirm for the court a conversation that took place in Simpson’s home just after the NFL legend had been found slapped with a multi-million dollar judgment in the civil trail regarding the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

The ruling determined Simpson was to pay $33.5-million to Goldman’s family and forced him to sell off many of his possessions in order to settle the debt.

The Goldmans claim Simpson hid many of his assets to avoid them from being confiscated. As a result, court orders have been issued for the seizure of possessions in an ongoing effort to reclaim the outstanding debt.

Roger reminded Fromong of the conversation he had with Simpson following the decision.

“You were sitting in defendant Simpson’s home, you were with (his associate) Mike Gilbert, and you guys were laughing because that property, those heirlooms, were taken out of the house and that they, whether it’s the state of California or the Goldmans, were never going to get it,” Roger said.

Fromong’s reply was as brief as it was damning: “That is correct, sir.”

Prosecutors later played yet another audio recording on which an angry Fromong says he previously “stood up for” Simpson and “helped him set up his (expletive) offshore accounts.”

Fromong did not want to take to the stand, and had to be subpoenaed to testify at the trial. Unlike Riccio, Fromong does not have immunity from prosecution.

The next witnesses to take to the stand were the director of security at the Palms, Frank Sciulla, and later, Alan Morris, who was a surveillance shift supervisor at Palace Station last year.

The two men reviewed standard video surveillance tapes and explained their roles, but offered little in regards to groundbreaking testimony.

The court then heard from a duo of technical experts this afternoon, as prosecutors continued to work through their list of witnesses.

Prosecutors set out to prove the validity of the audio recording that Riccio claims is an audio account of the highly-disputed events that took place inside his hotel room last year.

The fourth witness of the day was Jason Abramowitz, a Quantico, Va.-based forensic examiner and electric engineer with the FBI.

Abramowitz told the court that the Las Vegas FBI field office contacted him earlier this year and sent an Olympus 410 digital audio recorder to his office for inspection.

The recorder in question was the one Thomas Riccio says he used to capture audio of the meeting in the off-Strip casino-hotel between Simpson, Stewart, five of their associates and two memorabilia dealers who claim they were robbed at gunpoint last year.

Abramowitz told the court that while he does not analyze or enhance audio files, he is trained to look for and retrieve files from audio recorders like Riccio’s.

After analyzing the recorder, he said he found nine audio files: seven in the main file folder and two more that had been deleted but weren’t completely erased. While he was able to retrieve the two deleted files, he noted that it was impossible to know how many other files had been previously marked for deletion and subsequently recorded over.

Abramowitz said the device showed no physical or technical signs of tampering.

Once he extracted the audio, he copied the files onto two CDs and sent them to FBI audio analyst, Kenneth Marr, for further inspection.

After Abramowitz left the stand, Marr addressed the court through a video deposition.

He was unable to testify in person because of travel arrangements and commitments that were made prior to his being asked to attend court. He was cross-examined three weeks ago, on Aug. 25, and today Judge Jackie Glass began playing the video for the jury.

In the recording, Marr explained he received nine audio files from Abramowitz that had been extracted from Riccio’s voice recorder.

“My assignment was to conduct the enhancement and the copying of these files,” he said.

Marr told the court that the first disc he received had seven audio files on it, file numbers three, four, five, six, eight, nine and 10. He said the second disc contained the two files that Riccio appears to have tried to delete, which were saved to the recorder’s disc as “bin 011” and “bin 012.”

Judge Jackie Glass paused the video deposition at 5:30 p.m., just as Marr was about to explain his analysis of the audio files. She adjourned for the day, leaving the remaining three-and-a-half hours of Marr’s videotaped testimony for tomorrow.

Also expected to testify tomorrow is Las Vegas police officer, Andy Caldwell, and, if time allows, the highly-anticipated and controversial figure at the center of the case, Thomas Riccio.

Proceedings will resume Wednesday at 8 a.m.

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