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September 2, 2014

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Gunman in O.J. Simpson case testifies

North Las Vegas man says he provided handguns for the raid on Palace Station hotel room

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Steve Marcus

Michael McClinton testifies during O.J. Simpson’s trial at the Clark County Regional Justice Center Friday, Sept. 26, 2008, in Las Vegas. Simpson faces 12 charges, including felony kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy.

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O.J. Simpson reacts to testimony from Michael McClintion during his trial at the Clark County Regional Justice Center Friday, Sept. 26, 2008, in Las Vegas. Simpson faces 12 charges, including felony kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy.

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Clark County District Attorney David Roger, left, questions witness Michael McClinton during O.J. Simpson's trial at the Clark County Regional Justice Center Friday, Sept. 26, 2008, in Las Vegas. Simpson faces 12 charges, including felony kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy.

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Las Vegas Metropolitan Police detective Andy Caldwell displays a handgun while testifying during the O.J. Simpson trial at the Clark County Regional Justice Center Friday, Sept. 26, 2008, in Las Vegas.

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The North Las Vegas man who last year brandished a loaded gun and shouted obscenities during the infamous hotel room raid involving O.J. Simpson testified against the former NFL star Friday afternoon.

Michael McClinton said he had his Ruger P345 handgun in his hand on Sept. 13, 2007, when he entered a Palace Station hotel room and confronted memorabilia dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley.

McClinton was one of the seven men in Simpson's entourage, but like four of the others, he has agreed to a plea agreement and will testify against Simpson and his co-accused, Clarence "C.J." Stewart.

McClinton and the other man who brought a gun into the hotel room that day, Walter Alexander, said Simpson asked them to bring firearms to the confrontation.

"He wanted me to come along with him to retrieve his memorabilia with him as a security," McClinton said. "He wanted us both to come along with him."

Alexander testified on Thursday that Simpson asked him and McClinton to bring "some heat."

Simpson, meanwhile, has denied guns were ever part of the plan and said he didn't see any guns out during the raid, either.

McClinton said he obeyed Simpson's request and later retrieved his .45 caliber Ruger P345, which he stored "safetied but chambered," from his bedroom dresser drawer.

He also fetched his .22 caliber Beretta handgun and gave it to Alexander to use.

Dressed in suits and packing their heat as allegedly requested, the gunmen drove to the Palace Station Hotel & Casino to meet Simpson and the others.

McClinton said the men eventually made their way to room 1203, where the memorabilia dealers were waiting.

Before they entered the room, McClinton said Simpson had some special instructions for him.

"When we finally approached the door Mr. Simpson asked me to show my weapon and to look menacing," he said.

Alexander said the day before that Simpson instructed McClinton to draw his weapon before they entered the room.

"My gun was drawn when I went through the threshold of that door," McClinton said.

He said he used the weapon and a litany of vulgarities to intimidate the two memorabilia dealers inside the room, Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley.

McClinton can be heard on an audio recording of the altercation repeatedly shouting, "Pack that sh*t up! Pack it up!"

"You mother (expletive) (are) lucky you ain't in L.A. or your ass would be laying on the floor," he yells at one point.

He said Alexander pulled out the Beretta during the raid, too, but only for a minute or so.

This testimony contradicts Alexander, who assured the court Thursday that the gun never left his waistband.

The middleman who arranged the meeting between the memorabilia dealers and Simson, Thomas Riccio, secretly audio recorded the entire event.

That recording, which could not be verified by an FBI analysis, is now central evidence in the case against Simpson and Stewart.

There is no specific mention of a gun before or during the hotel room run-in on any of Riccio's recordings. But Riccio wasn't the only one who was secretly recording his conversations with Simpson.

McClinton and Alexander also had their suspicions and on Sept. 13 they bought a spy video camera and an audio recorder, as well. The two couldn't get the miniature video camera to work, but the analog audio recorder worked like a charm.

McClinton brought his new recorder with him when he met up with Simpson and the others at the Palms for dinner later that night.

The concealed device captured conversation that provides perhaps the most damning evidence against Simpson.

The former All-Star running back can be heard on the tape boasting and laughing about what happened earlier that day at Palace Station.

Simpson also talks about McClinton's gun, which he told police he knew nothing about.

During the conversation the men wonder if their actions were caught on Palace Station security cameras.

Simpson asks McClinton, "You didn't pull the piece out in the hall?"

McClinton replies, "No, no, no, no, no, no hell no," - though he testified to the contrary, saying the gun was actually out before he entered the room.

"When they (look) at that footage they ain't gonna see nobody carrying no gun," an unknown voice says.

On the tape, Simpson sounded pleased.

"There ain't nothin' on that video. ... They're gonna get all the video, look at it before they decide what they gonna do. Ain't nothin' they can see, they gonna see us goin' in the place (and) then they gonna see (us) leaving with just the boxes."

He also talks about him needing to come up with a good story to tell police. "I'm going to be all over the TV," Simpson says. "I'm trying to figure out what story to tell 'em."

"I just don't wanna be in no mother (expletive) lock-up," he says.

When McClinton asks Simpson what he's going to do with the memorabilia they recovered, he tells him that he's not planning on keeping it.

"I gave it to my lawyer. ... I said you all can have all of this, I just didn't want them to have it. ... to be honest with you I knew now that Goldmans would get it and sell it and so I, I told these guys do whatever you wanna do with it. ... These guys earned it."

"Ain't that the truth," an unknown member of the group adds.

Unlike Riccio's recording, McClinton's tape was verified by an FBI analysis after he turned it over to Metro investigators.

McClinton turned himself in to police on Sept 18 and signed a plea agreement on Oct 29. While he originally faced the same dozen robbery, kidnapping and weapons charges Simpson and Stewart still face, he now faces just two counts: robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

Simpson and Stewart, meanwhile, have not been offered any pleas from prosecutors and could spend the rest of their lives behind bars if convicted.

Their criminal trial will continue on Monday when McClinton will return to the stand.

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