AP Photo/ Daniel Gluskoter, Pool
Published Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008 | 10:06 a.m.
Updated Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008 | 10:47 p.m.
One of the two men who brought guns to a Las Vegas hotel last year testified Wednesday that O.J. Simpson told them to bring "heat" to the confrontation.
That was just one of the revelations heard during the eighth day of Simpson's increasingly bizarre robbery/kidnapping trial. The day's discussions also included oftentimes-heated talk about religion, pimps and alleged extortion.
One of the gun-carrying members of Simpson's group, Walter Alexander said Simpson asked him and their mutual friend, Michael McClinton, to bring "heat" on Sept 13, 2007, to help the former NFL star recover what he claimed were personal items from a Palace Station hotel room.
Alexander said McClinton gave him a .22-caliber handgun to bring to the run-in with two memorabilia dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley, whom Simpson said were trying to sell personal items of his.
Alexander and five others who were in the entourage that day have signed plea agreements with prosecutors in exchange for their testimony against Simpson and his co-defendant, Clarence "C.J." Stewart.
The court heard from one of the accomplices, Charles Ehrlich, on Tuesday and heard from another, Charles Cashmore, after Alexander left the stand.
Alexander said Simpson acknowledged the guns during the altercation and at one point shouted, "Put the gun down."
That contradicts Simpson, who has denied asking the men to bring guns and has insisted that he was not aware guns were used during the alleged robbery. The former All-Star running back has said he and his colleagues simply went to the Palace Station to recover personal items that had been stolen from him and that guns were never part of the plan.
Simpson and Stewart now face a dozen kidnapping, robbery and weapons charges related to the altercation.
Alexander began Wednesday by detailing how he claims he was coerced into carrying a gun and participating in what he later realized was an "armed robbery."
He told the court how Simpson asked him and McClinton to help recover some items that belonged to him.
"O.J. said, 'Hey, man, listen, there's some people in town that stole some things that belong to me, and I need to get 'em back ... and I need somebody to watch my back. Can you watch my back?" Alexander said. "I said, 'No problem, you know I got your back, Juice'."
"He said, 'OK, do you think you could get some heat?'" Alexander said. "He said 'You won't have to use them, you know, just put them in your waistbands'."
Alexander said Simpson wanted them to bring guns so the men they were going to confront would "know that we mean business." He said Simpson instructed him and McClinton to "open up your jackets just so that they see the gun and they know that we mean business."
Alexander testified that when the group assembled at the Palace Station later that day, McClinton had his gun out before he and the other men entered room 1203.
"Right before we went in the room O.J. came a little closer to (McClinton) and told (McClinton) to take the gun out and put it in his hand," he said.
Charles Cashmore testified later Wednesday afternoon that the gun came out later, "in the heat of conversation" as the men were in the hotel room. "When he first came into the room it was not out," he said.
Several witnesses have disagreed over when McClinton's gun came out. Alexander and Fromong claimed it was out as he entered the room, while Cashmore, along with the middleman who arranged the meeting, Thomas Riccio, and another man that was there that day, Charles Ehrlich, said McClinton didn't draw his weapon until after the men were in the room for several minutes.
Fromong said both gunmen had their guns drawn during the raid. Alexander said his weapon never left his belt.
"My gun never left my waistband," he said. "I never took it out."
Alexander said he remembers thinking, "Man, this is going to be a robbery," before he followed the others into the hotel room that day.
"I really didn't want to go into that room once (McClinton's) gun was out," he said. "I really wanted to turn around and go the opposite direction but at the same time I didn't want to seem like a coward."
Alexander said Riccio entered the room first, followed by Cashmore and Ehrlich. He said McClinton "went in right after those three, brandishing a weapon, telling everyone to freeze."
"He has the gun out and said, ... 'freeze!' you know, 'Everybody to this side of the room, everybody over here'," Alexander said.
Alexander said Stewart frisked the memorabilia dealers to make sure they weren't carrying any guns and then Ehrlich, Cashmore and Stewart packed up the memorabilia.
Cashmore said he and Ehrlich filled pillowcases with "anything that would fit." He said he took "footballs, the (neck)ties, (and) anything of the stuff that was on the bed that was not boxes and pictures."
He also put into his pillowcase a box containing Fromong's Joe Montana lithographs. Fromong testified last week that he became very concerned when the lithographs were taken, and asked to have them back.
Alexander said he personally took a box of lithographs, a pair of sunglasses he found on the floor and Fromong's cell phone.
Before they left, Alexander said they assured Fromong and Beardsley that any items that weren't Simpson's would be returned.
Alexander said Simpson told him to return Fromong's cell phone as they were making their way out of the maze-like casino.
Alexander was reluctant to return the phone. "I just really didn't want them to be able to call the police right away," he said. He claimed he went to return it but couldn't remember the room number.
Cashmore later said that he told Simpson that he would return Fromong's phone to him, along with a box of Joe Montana lithographs he took by mistake.
"Mr. Simpson said he didn't want anything that was not his and those two pieces of merchandise were not his and I had offered to take it back and take (them) ... to the front desk of the hotel."
The items were never returned, however, because Cashmore said no one called him to tell him what name to leave the items under at the Palace Station front desk.
Alexander and Cashmore both said the group rendezvoused in the Palace Station parking lot immediately after the confrontation.
Alexander said he put the lithographs and sunglasses he took into the back of McClinton's vehicle while the other men loaded memorabilia into the back of Stewart's Lincoln Navigator.
Cashmore left with Stewart, Simpson and Ehrlich while Alexander and McClinton left in a separate vehicle.
Alexander said Simpson said, "hey, just remember, there's no guns, no guns," as they left the scene.
"He was saying it to everybody who was involved, 'You know, just remember: no guns'," he said.
During dinner at the Little Buddha Cafe that evening, Alexander said Simpson tried to lighten the mood and was joking around, saying "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas but not if you're O.J. Simpson."
He said Simpson assured them, "You don't have to worry about it," as long as nobody mentioned the gun.
"I knew this was going to turn into a big mess," Alexander said. "We realized he was going to throw us under the bus."
He said he was very nervous, so much so that he didn't go to the wedding the next day that he, Simpson and many of the others had traveled to Las Vegas to attend.
"I felt the police were going to show up at the wedding and arrest everybody," Alexander said.
Before going to the airport on Sept. 15 to catch his flight home, he said he told McClinton, "Hey, I'm telling you now, If I go to jail, I'm telling the truth ... so if you tell the truth, our stories are going to match."
"I'm not going to jail for O.J.," he told his friend.
Police were waiting for him at the airport. Alexander was arrested, questioned, charged and held for about 12 hours before being released on bail.
He eventually cut a deal with the prosecution, but not before he shopped around to see what his options were.
Defense attorneys alleged that Alexander tried to extort $50,000 from Tom Scotto, Simpson, Stewart and his mutual friend whose wedding he missed that weekend.
Alexander said that was a complete lie. He did, however, say he asked Scotto to pay his legal fees.
During the preliminary hearing, Alexander admitted that he told Scotto that if he helped pay for an attorney he would "possibly see what I could do to help O.J. out of the matter."
Galanter asked if this was an offer to "slant (his) testimony a different way."
"If he would've written you that check ... you would've slanted your testimony to help Mr. Simpson?" Galanter asked during the hearing.
"Right," Alexander replied. "I would have brought up the fact that it was a set-up because I felt Thomas Riccio double-crossed everybody involved in the matter."
He said Wednesday that at the time of his telephone offer to Scotto he hadn't decided whether or not he would take the State's plea bargain.
"I was just feeling out the prospects to see if I could help," Alexander said.
He said he believed he could have helped Simpson "considerably" and at one point thought he would be sitting alongside Simpson and Stewart as a defendant in this case.
"That would help Mr. Simpson out considerably because I wouldn't be sitting here telling the truth about what happened," he said. "My mouth would be sealed. ... And I felt that would definitely help Mr. Simpson."
In the end, however, he agreed to the plea presented by District Attorney David Roger that will see him plead guilty to one conspiracy charge, for which he will likely receive probation in lieu of any jail time.
"(District Attorney David) Rogers told me that, 'the first horse to the trough drinks the pristine waters' and to me that meant that if I cooperated that I'd get the best, pristine deal in the matter," he said. "That's what I was hoping for."
He accepted the agreement a month after he was arrested at McCarran International Airport, Oct. 15.
Before he left the stand, Alexander told the court that he still feels conflicted about his plea.
"I'd hate to see O.J. go to jail, I'd hate to see Mr. Stewart go to jail," he said.
"I truly believe that O.J. thought he was going to get his own stuff but at the same time, I truly believe, now, that it was a robbery," he said.
"At the time I didn't feel like it was a robbery; I thought we were just going to retrieve some items that belonged to him. So I'm torn."
Before Alexander was called to testify, Judge Glass ruled not to allow the lawyer representing the estate of murder victim Ronald Goldman to testify in the trial.
Glass sided with Simpson's lawyers and decided David Cook would not be permitted take the stand.
"The relevance regarding this issue and the civil suit is marginal," Glass said. "The prejudice far outweighs the probative value."
Cook represents the Goldman family, specifically Frank Goldman, whose son was murdered in 1994, along with and Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.
Simpson was charged with both murders but was acquitted in 1995 following a highly publicized criminal trial.
The issue of Cook's relevancy was debated extensively on Tuesday, which delayed proceedings for several hours.
Glass's conclusion Wednesday was brief: "We're here to deal with this case of Sept. 13, 2007, so Mr. Cook will not be testifying."
She noted the amount of time spent Tuesday debating and discussing Cook's potential testimony when she announced her decision.
"We had a significant amount of discussion here at the bench, we had discussion in my chambers, I indicated to all of you that I wanted to think about this before I made this decision and in fact when court was over I went into my office and thought about it," she said.
Lawyers for both defendants used Cook's possible inclusion in the trial as a launching pad for motions for a mistrial, while Stewart's lawyers asked to have their client severed from the trial.
Galanter motioned for a mistrial again on Wednesday, but not because of Cook: It was Alexander's reading of the Bible on the stand, coupled with the restrictions the judge laid upon the defense regarding Alexander's occupation that had him crying foul.
Defense lawyers said Alexander's reading of the Bible during a halt in proceedings was an attempt to influence the jury.
"He brought a Bible to the stand and presented himself as a religious person," Simpson's lawyer, Gabriel Grasso, charged.
Alexander brought out his Bible while the Judge was meeting with attorneys at sidebar. The religious text was not noticed at the time.
Grasso and Galanter also tried to have the witness impeached because he told the court and signed sworn statements claiming he makes his living in real estate.
They said Alexander is a pimp, not a real estate agent as he has claimed.
"It made it sound like ... he's got some Century 21 office and he's there every day somewhere when we know that's not the truth," Grasso said. The accusations were made when the jury was out of the courtroom.
The defense wanted to ask him about the allegedly misleading statements.
"The fact that he had a Bible in his hand and he ... would turn and face the jury and open up his Bible while we were at side bar opened the door for us to be able to ask him how religious a pimp really is," Grasso argued.
Glass disagreed and reminded them not to bring up Alexander's other sources of income in front of the jury.
She also refused to impeach the witness for not being truthful during the preliminary hearing.
"Whether he's a real estate agent, a truck driver, a dog catcher, or anything else, and whether he admitted that he was or wasn't a pimp, doesn't go to his motive for testifying in this court," Glass said.
The attorneys moved for a mistrial but it, like their first filing, was denied.