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September 1, 2014

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Week in review:

Several men involved in O.J. Simpson hotel raid testify against him

Simpson asked for guns to be brought along, witnesses say

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Steve Marcus

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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Charles Ehrlich testifies during O.J. Simpson's trial in Las Vegas, Monday, Sept. 22, 2008. Simpson faces 12 charges, including felony kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy.

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Memorabilia dealer Alfred Beardsley points to O.J. Simpson as he testifies during Simpson's trial at the Clark County Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas, Nevada Thursday, September 25, 2008. Simpson and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart are standing trial on 12 charges, including felony kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy related to a 2007 confrontation with Beardsley and another sports memorabilia dealer in a Las Vegas hotel.

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O.J. Simpson attorney Gabriel Grasso points to a transcript of an audio recording identifying a statement by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department crime scene analyst Michael Perkins during Simpson's trial at the Clark County Regional Justice Center on Friday, Sept. 26, 2008, in Las Vegas. The line reads "Hey, if the glove don't fit, then you must acquit."

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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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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's attorney Yale Galanter holds a book written by witness Thomas Riccio in court during Simpson's trial in Las Vegas, Monday, Sept. 22, 2008. Simpson faces 12 charges, including felony kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy.

Sun coverage

The second week of O.J. Simpson's robbery/kidnapping trial saw several of his alleged co-conspirators take the stand to testify against their former friend.

The former All-Star running back and his friend, Clarence "C.J." Stewart, face 12 robbery, kidnapping and weapons charges stemming from a run-in last year with two memorabilia dealers in a Palace Station hotel room.

Simpson has said he and the six others that accompanied him that day were simply recovering personal items that had been stolen from him years ago. He also told police no guns were involved.

The men who testified this week, however, told a different story.

Charles Ehrlich on Monday told the court that during the hotel room confrontation someone said, "put the gun away." When District Attorney David Roger asked him who said it, Ehrlich said, "I think it was Mr. Simpson."

He was one of the five men who accompanied Simpson and Stewart on Sept. 13, 2007, when their group raided a Palace Station hotel room and allegedly stole a range of memorabilia from Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley.

Later in his testimony, the witness more strongly identified Simpson as shouting at the gunman: "I heard O.J. say, 'put the guns away'."

The middleman who arranged the infamous meeting, however, said otherwise.

Thomas Riccio on Monday said no one mentioned the firearm during the raid, even when one of the two men who brought a gun into the room, Michael McClinton, was brandishing his gun about, pointing it at Riccio, Fromong and Beardsley.

"Nobody mentioned a gun for some reason, but it was there," he said.

Fromong, testified during the first week of proceedings that he heard someone yell, "put the gun down, put the gun down," during the raid, but be couldn't say for sure who said it.

Riccio secretly tape-recorded the entire run-in, as well as several conversations he had with Simpson and the victims before and after the altercation. Those recordings are now central evidence in the case, and Riccio has been given immunity from prosecution in exchange for his cooperation.

No mention of a gun is heard on Riccio's recording of the six-minute confrontation.

Riccio revealed on Monday that he pocketed $210,000 because of his recordings and his involvement in the scandal. The figure does not include royalties from his book, "Busted!" which was published earlier this year and has been named an L.A. Times bestseller.

Riccio sold the audio tape of the run-in rather than giving it to police. The gossip Web site, TMZ, paid $150,000 for it and investigators didn't even know the recording existed until they heard it was available online several days later.

ABC News contributed an additional $25,000 to Riccio's purse, while CBS' syndicated nightly entertainment news program, Entertainment Tonight, chipped in an additional $15,000 and his involvement with the Howard Stern show saw him pocket $20,000 more.

Riccio said Stern's show never paid him directly, but one sponsors, Clips4Sale, cut him a check.

While most of his book, "Busted!," focuses on Riccio's life and previous ups and downs, he and publishers Phoenix Books relied heavily on the Simpson scandal to sell copies.

The front cover displays police mug shots of Riccio and Simpson and reads: "Busted! The inside story of the world of sports memorabilia, O.J. Simpson and the Vegas arrests."

Simpson's attorney, Yale Galanter, challenged the memorabilia dealer, who is largely viewed as the prosecution's star witness, about his other alleged attempts to profit from the scandal.

It has been reported that Riccio used his Web site, BustedVegas.com, to put out feelers for additional personal sponsors.

A Review-Journal columnist paraphrased in August what apparently appeared on Riccio's Web site before the trial began:

"For $7,500, Riccio will place your ad on the limo he takes to the courthouse. The fee is $5,000 on noncourt days.

"Pay him $5,000 and he'll have dinner at your restaurant the day he testifies. The fee is $2,500 for breakfast and $2,000 to do lunch at your eatery that day.

"... For $5,000 Riccio will plug your product or company during talk-show appearances ... (And) it costs $6,000 'if he wears your hat all five days he is in Las Vegas'."

"For $5,500, Riccio will appear in a Review-Journal ad pitching your restaurant, according to the Web site."

Riccio denied that he ever used the site to lure in sponsors, but acknowledged others encouraged him to try to use the site to secure sponsorships.

His lawyer, Stan Lieber, later conceded that the people who run Riccio's Web site might have posted the publicity price lists without authorization.

Galanter gave Riccio a large envelope on Monday after he left the witness stand.

Inside the red envelope was a copy of "Busted!" that Simpson had autographed, right next to the photo of his police mug shot the front cover. Inside, the former NFL star inscribed: "Tom, Don't squeeze the Juice!" and signed his name underneath.

Riccio, who is a memorabilia dealer, said he promised Galanter that he wouldn't sell the autographed book.

As Galanter resumed his cross-examination of Simpson's former friend, Ehrlich, on Tuesday he informed jurors that they might put Simpson, 61, behind bars for the rest of his life if they find him guilty.

Ehrlich was the last of Simpson's accomplices to strike a deal with the prosecution. The 54-year-old was originally charged with the same 12 counts that Simpson and Stewart, 54, now face. But Ehrlich has since agreed to plead guilty to two lesser charges: being an accessory to attempted robbery and attempted burglary.

District Judge Jackie Glass summarized his plea agreement: "He was facing a potential life sentence with a possibility of parole after a minimum of five years, he was facing 12 charges, now he's facing two, and the two he's facing are probation eligible."

Probation eligible means Glass has the power to sentence Ehrlich to a sentence of parole conditions rather than jail time. She will deliver his sentence after the trial.

Simpson and Stewart face a dozen charges, including two counts of first-degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon, which carries a possible life sentence; two counts of robbery with use of a deadly weapon; and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

Galanter was critical of Ehrlich's oftentimes foggy memory and, at one point, the defense accused the witness of having a "selective memory."

Ehrlich had trouble remembering dates and the sequence of events, including when he met with the district attorney, law enforcement and signed documents relating to his plea agreement.

He at one point he had to admit, "I guess I was incorrect with that previous testimony," after he was shown previous sworn statements of his that demonstrated a different order of facts than what he had just told the court.

Stewart's layer, E. Brent Bryson, was visibly frustrated when Ehrlich told him that despite his imperfect memory, he recalled Stewart at the Palms on the afternoon of Sept. 13 as Simpson and the others planned the raid. Stewart claims he wasn't at the meeting.

Still, Ehrlich couldn't say what he said to him, what they talked about, or what Stewart said to the other men.

Galanter moved for a mistrial on Tuesday after David Cook was nearly admitted as a witness.

Stweart's attorney, Robert Lucherini, also moved for a mistrial -- and filed a motion to sever Stewart from Simpson's trial, as well.

Cook is the lawyer who represents the family of murder victim Ronald Goldman. Goldman and Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, were murdered in 1994.

Simpson was charged with both murders but was acquitted in 1995 following a highly publicized criminal trial. The former NFL star was found liable three years later, however, in a civil action filed by the Goldmans.

"This testimony has no relevance to this case," Galanter said after Cook took the stand during an evidentiary hearing Tuesday afternoon. The jury was not in the courtroom for the hearing.

"It's prejudicial," Galanter said. "The reason they're calling Mr. Cook is to remind the jurors" about Simpson's previous legal troubles.

Prosecutors defended their witness.

"Mr. Simpson talks about the (civil) judgment, the Goldmans on the audio tape. This was one of the motives for the robbery," Roger said.

Simpson refers to the Goldmans as "the gold-diggers" during one of the recordings.

The State believes Simpson wanted to recover items from Fromong and Beardsley in Nevada instead of California because of his ongoing efforts to skirt turnover orders filed by the Goldmans.

"(Simpson) said that it wasn't going to work in California because his lawyers said there could be a lot of problems because of the Goldmans ... would get the stuff," Riccio testified Monday.

Simpson lived in California at the time of the alleged robbery, but has since moved to Miami, Fla.

Simpson says the items he and his entourage allegedly stole on Sept. 13, 2007 - including several NFL game presentation footballs, his 1969 NFL All-Star plaque, and numerous personal and family photos - were stolen from him.

Glass ultimately decided not to allow Cook to take the stand in the presence of the jury.

"The relevance regarding this issue and the civil suit is marginal," Glass said Wednesday morning. "The prejudice far outweighs the probative value."

Glass's conclusion was brief: "We're here to deal with this case of Sept. 13, 2007, so Mr. Cook will not be testifying."

Later that day, one of the two men who brought guns to the raid testified that Simpson told him to bring "heat" to the confrontation.

Walter Alexander said Simpson asked him and their mutual friend, Michael McClinton, to bring "heat" to help the former Simspon what he claimed were personal items from the Palace Station hotel room.

Alexander said McClinton gave him a .22-caliber handgun to bring to the run-in with Fromong and Beardsley, whom Simpson said were trying to sell personal items of his.

Alexander said Simpson acknowledged the guns during the altercation and at one point shouted, "Put the gun down."

Simpson has denied asking the men to bring weapons 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) said 'You won't have to use them, you know, just put them in your waistbands'," Alexander said, later noting Simpson wanted them to bring guns so the men they were going to confront would "know that we mean business."

Alexander also testified that 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.

One of the other men in Simpson's entourage, Charles Cashmore, testified later Wednesday afternoon that McClinton's 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, McClinton and Fromong claim it was out as he entered the room, while Cashmore, Riccio and Ehrlich say McClinton didn't draw his weapon until after the men were in the room for several minutes.

That's not the only disagreement the witnesses share: Fromong and McClinton say both gunmen had their guns drawn during the raid, while Alexander says his weapon never left his belt.

"My gun never left my waistband," he said. "I never took it out."

Alexander said Simpson told him to return Fromong's cell phone as they were making their way out of the maze-like casino last year, but the Mesa, Ariz. resident was reluctant to return the phone. "I just really didn't want them to be able to call the police right away," Alexander said. He claimed he went to return it but couldn't remember the room number.

Cashmore testified that he told Simpson that he would return Fromong's phone to him, along with Fromong's box of Joe Montana lithographs that 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," he said.

Cashmore said the items were never returned, however, because no one told him what name to leave the items under at the Palace Station front desk.

Defense attorneys alleged that Alexander tried to extort $50,000 from a mutual friend of Simpson, Stewart and his, Tom Scotto.

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."

In the end, however, he agreed to the prosecution's plea offer that will see him plead guilty to one conspiracy charge and likely receive probation in lieu of any jail time.

Galanter motioned for a second mistrial after Alexander read the Bible on the stand and the judge restricted the defense from asking about Alexander's occupation.

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. The accusations were made when the jury was out of the courtroom.

The defense wanted to ask him about the allegedly misleading statements, but the judge told them the topic was off-limits.

Glass refused to grant the mistrial or impeach the witness.

"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," she said.

When Beardsley took to the stand Thursday he said Riccio's audio recording of the alleged robbery is a highly-edited "work of art."

"There's all kind of dialogue missing," he charged.

Fromong didn't object to the audio account of events when he testified.

FBI audio examiner Kenneth Marr had already told the court through a videotaped deposition that his analysis of the audio files extracted from Riccio's digital recorder was inconclusive.

"I was not able to determine whether or not the files were altered," Marr said. He said he found areas of over-recording on the device that he said "might" mean the audio files had been manipulated.

Beardsley said Riccio "took a recording of a so-called ... crime and withheld it from the police, took it back to Los Angeles for a period of time, (and) we have nothing but post-production houses in Los Angeles that could assist him in changing, altering or enhancing that tape to his liking."

"There's chain of custody issues I have with it," he said.

Beardsley reminded prosecutors that he has objected to Riccio's recording before. "There's a whole section (missing) ... and I talked to you directly about that," he told Roger.

The audio wasn't the only thing Beardsley contested. He said Riccio did not stay in the hotel room after the confrontation, either, as Riccio has stated.

The controversial memorabilia dealer said Riccio "chased (Simpson and the others) down the hall, into the parking lot ... to retrieve his package (of memorabilia) that was accidentally taken by the men."

He said he thought it was "suspicious" at the time, considering Riccio "acted like he was scared" during the raid and knew at least one of the men in Simpson's group had a gun.

Simpson's former friend and manager, Mike Gilbert, also testified Thursday.

During Gilbert's brief testimony he said he helped move several valuables Simpson's estate to stop them from being seized after the Heisman Trophy winner was in 1998 issued a $33.5-million liability judgment in the civil trial for the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

Simpson had been acquitted of their murders in 1995.

Gilbert said he and Simpson's sister fanned the items among Simpson's friends and family, and put other items in storage.

Simpson has said Gilbert stole the memorabilia and later sold it -- or attempted to sell it -- for profit.

Several of these contested items are among those that Fromong and Beardsley claim were taken from them during the hotel room raid last year.

Fromong and Beardsley, meanwhile, said they acquired the items legally from Gilbert.

Simpson's lawyers challenged the state's calling of Gilbert to the stand, arguing that Gilbert had no evidence to bear on their client's current criminal case.

"He's merely being called to prejudice this jury," Galanter said.

Stewart's lawyers argued that Gilbert had no relevance to their client's case. They suggested, again, that Stewart should be severed from the trial and tried separately from Simpson. The motion was denied.

Metro Police sergeant Rod Hunt, who worked with Metro's robbery division last year, also spent some time on the witness stand Thursday afternoon.

He told the court how he and three other officers executed a search warrant for Stewart's North Las Vegas home, and how they retrieved a notebook, a framed portrait of Stewart, a plaid shirt and a form from the DMV.

Afterward, LVPD CSI crime scene analyst, William Speas, testified how he executed a warrant at McClinton's North Las Vegas home and found two loaded and unlocked firearms inside.

He said investigators discovered both guns, a .22 Beretta and .45 Ruger, loaded alongside extra rounds of ammunition in dresser drawers in McClinton's bedroom.

Defense lawyers on Friday scrutinized what investigators said while processing the scene, as well as several errors in the Metro-produced transcripts of their tape-recorded conversations.

Metro Police detective Andy Caldwell was re-called by prosecutors on Friday to explain how investigators obtained and used evidence. He had originally been called during the first week of the trial.

He told the court how investigators contrasted phone records with audio recordings to establish a timeline of events surrounding the alleged robbery.

Using a large visual chart complete with photos, Caldwell charted the telephone correspondence between the accused and their alleged co-conspirators who have signed plea bargains with the defense. Simpson's daughter, Arnelle Simpson, is also on the chart, but the middleman who arranged the hotel room meeting, Riccio, is not.

Riccio made several calls to Simpson and others in the group, as well as to Fromong and Beardsley.

Fromong and Beardsley were also nowhere to be seen on the detective's poster board, even though Simpson called them over the phone just hours after the alleged robbery and spoke to them during the days that followed, as well.

As Caldwell reviewed phone records, prosecutors displayed cell phone invoices that included personal information, including names, addresses and Social Security Numbers.

Glass ordered the information be obstructed from view.

Caldwell explained court how investigators recovered several of the footballs that were reported missing, as well as the pillowcases that were allegedly used to haul the memorabilia out of the hotel room during the raid, from the offices of Stewart's lawyer, Robert Lucherini.

Caldwell also said police recovered Fromong's missing cell phone and box of Joe Montana lithographs from Cashmore's attorney's office.

Stewart and his lawyer willfully led investigators to the items during a walk-though of the premises. Cashmore's lawyer also co-operated with investigators.

Caldwell noted that several items Fromong and Beardsley said Simpson's entourage stole took have yet to be recovered.

He said 24 baseballs autographed by Pete Rose and Duke Snider, several hundred O.J. Simpson-autographed photos and a pair of turf-worn game shoes were never found.

Grasso highlighted several instances where be suggested investigators demonstrated bias.

Page 193 of the LVPD transcript quotes two investigators as they process evidence in the Palace Station hotel room. It reads:

Perkins: This is great. Yeah. Uh, John said, he's like, yeah. California can't get him _____ now we'll be _____ got him.

(Laughing)

Grasso said that even with the court's "junky sound system," listeners can tell that crime scene analyst Michael Perkins is actually saying, "California can't get it (expletive) done, now we'll get it done."

He suggested the investigators were talking about Simpson's 1995 double-murder acquittal.

Grasso said investigators had it in for Simpson and were determined to build the case against him.

Later in the transcript, on page 148, Perkins and another investigator, Clint Nichols, talk about Simpson's imminent arrest.

Nichols: Uh, he's gonna get arrested.

Perkins: Who, who's gonna get arrested?

Nichols: O.J.

Perkins: Oh, good.

The North Las Vegas man who brandished a loaded gun and shouted obscenities during the infamous hotel room raid testified on Friday afternoon.

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 Fromong and Beardsley.

He 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.

McClinton and Alexander testified separately that Simpson asked them to bring firearms to the confrontation and then told McClinton to draw his weapon seconds before they entered the hotel room.

The confessed gunman said he brought his .45 caliber Ruger P345 and gave Alexander a .22 caliber Beretta handgun to use.

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

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

He told the court how he used the weapon and a litany of vulgarities to intimidate Fromong and 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 his gun during the raid, too, but only for a minute or so. Alexander, however, assured the court Thursday that the gun never left his waistband.

McClinton and Alexander both said they bought a spy video camera and an audio recorder but couldn't get the miniature video camera to work.

The analog audio recorder, however, worked like a charm and McClinton used it to secretly record conversations he had with Simpson and the others after the alleged robbery.

On one of the recordings prosecutors played or the court on Friday, Simpson is heard boasting and laughing about what happened during the alleged robbery.

The former All-Star running back is also heard talking about McClinton's gun, which Simpson told police he knew nothing about, on the tape.

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

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

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

Simpson sounded pleased on the recording but also talks about needing to come up with a good story to tell police. "I'm going to be all over the TV," he 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 the group recovered earlier that day, Simpson 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.

That tape was verified by an FBI analysis after McClinton 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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