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Witness: Recording of O.J. Simpson raid ‘work of art’

Memorabilia dealer has issues with audio recording of events


AP Photo/Isaac Brekken/pool

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.

Updated Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008 | 7:35 p.m.

O.J. Simpson Trial, Day 9

O.J. Simpson, left, and co-defendant Clarence Launch slideshow »

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One of the men who was allegedly robbed by a raiding party led by O.J. Simpson last year claims the audio recording of the alleged robbery is a highly-edited “work of art.”

“There’s all kind of dialogue missing,” charged Alfred Beardsley, who is one of the two memorabilia dealers who Simpson and six others confronted in a Palace Station hotel room a year ago.

Beardsley testified during the ninth day of the colorful criminal trial that is being heard at the Clark County Regional Justice Center.

The recording is a central piece of evidence in the state's case against Simpson and his co-accused, Clarence "C.J." Stewart, for the robbery/kidnapping charges that could send the two to jail for the rest of their lives if they are convicted.

"Unless you have authorities in law enforcement or laboratory that can hand me proof that that tape is authentic, I'm not going to support that tape," Beardsley said.

He was called as the prosecution's 15th witness. The court heard last week from the other victim, Bruce Fromong, who didn't object to the audio account of events.

The middleman who arranged the hotel room meeting, Thomas Riccio, secretly recorded the altercation that ensued as Simpson's entourage surprised Beardsley and Fromong.

Riccio did not tell police about the recording, and instead sold the tape for $150,000 to the gossip Web site, TMZ. Investigators did not become aware of the recording until several day later, when they heard it was available online. Riccio completed giving his testimony on Monday.

FBI audio examiner Kenneth Marr testified earlier in the trial that his analysis of the audio files extracted from Riccio's digital recorder were 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."

"He sold it to a tabloid Web site .... and then finally the police got their hands on it," Beardsley said. "There's chain of custody issues I have with it."

The State witness said he told District Attorney David Roger and another official that the audio had been doctored.

“There’s a whole section (missing) … and I talked to you directly about that,” he said to Roger from his seat on the witness stand.

Beardsley made it clear that he did not want to testify against Simpson, who he said he had admired since childhood. The State served him a subpoena that required him to testify.

The audio wasn’t the only thing Beardsley contested. He said Riccio’s testimony, that Beardsley contacted him asking to find a buyer for some rare Simpson memorabilia, was all wrong.

He said it was Riccio that contacted him, not the other way around.

The memorabilia dealer also said Riccio did not stay in the hotel room after the confrontation, either.

He 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,” considering Riccio “acted like he was scared” just moments earlier and knew at least one of the men had a gun.

Beardsley said he and Simpson were “set up” by Riccio and that Simpson “had been misinformed (and) lied to completely.”

“I believe that he was targeted by this conman in order for this man to make quite a bit of money,” Beardsley said. “(Riccio) has done nothing but make money for the last year.”

Riccio revealed earlier this week that he was over $210,000 for rights to his audio recording of the infamous raid. That figure does not include any profits from the book he released earlier this year.

Since the incident, Beardsley hasn't exactly seen eye-to-eye with Riccio.

Beardsley has filed a civil suit against Riccio, alleging a range of things, including saying the middleman knowingly put him in danger and later defamed him in the book Riccio wrote about the incident. Beardsley's lawyer, Nack Swickard, said his client is seeking unspecified damages. Riccio has filed a counter suit.

At one point, Riccio had the California court add a specific condition to Beardsley's parole terms that instructed him not to contact Riccio.

Beardsley allegedly violated those terms when he contacted the publishing company that printed Riccio's tell-all book, "Busted!" He is now serving time at the California Institution for Men because of it. He has been incarcerated since April but is appealing the violation.

Beardsley was also arrested for parole violation following the altercation involving Simpson and the others. He was picked up on Sept, 19, 2007, after authorities learned he was involved in the alleged robbery in Nevada six days earlier because previous parole conditions stipulated not to leave the state of California.

Before Beardsley took the stand, Simpson's former manager and friend, Mike Gilbert, was called to testify.

During his brief testimony he revealed the he had a “relationship” with a woman, who he called an “O.J. groupie” right around the time Simpson was being tried in California for the double murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

Gilbert didn’t reveal the extent of the relationship he and Kimberly Meadows shared, but said he met her in 1994 or 1995.

Simpson was acquitted of the murders in 1995 but was found liable for the deaths three years later during a civil trial. That case resulted in a $33.5-million judgment against Simpson, which was to be split between the estates of the two slain victims.

Goldman’s estate has been chasing Simpson ever since, and the former NFL star has liquidated many of his belongings. Lawyers allege Simpson has made ongoing efforts to hide his assets to evade collections agents, and multiple turnover orders have been issued.

That’s where Gilbert comes in.

Gilbert has said he helped move several of Simpson’s valuables from the estate to stop them from being seized. He said he and Simpson’s sister fanned the items among Simpson’s friends and family, and put other items in storage.

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

Several of these items are among those that Simpson and Stewart are accused of stealing from two collectibles dealers last year.

Fromong and Beardsley say Simpson, Stewart and five others robbed them at gunpoint during an orchestrated raid at a Palace Station hotel room last year.

Simpson said the items -- including several NFL game presentation footballs, his 1969 NFL All-Star plaque, and numerous personal and family photos -- had been stolen from him.

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

Metro Police detective Andy Caldwell explained when he testified last week for the prosecution that who stole what from whom might be irrelevant because ownership doesn’t matter in terms of robbery.

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.

Gilbert’s testimony was the latest attempt by the prosecution to remind jurors of Simpson’s past legal troubles, they said.

“He’s merely being called to prejudice this jury,” attorney Yale Galanter said.

Stewart’s lawyers, meanwhile, 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.

Judge Jackie Glass ruled Wednesday that David Cook, the lawyer who represents the Goldman estate, would not be allowed to testify because of his limited relevance to the trial.

Gilbert was permitted, however, but Glass limited the scope of his testimony: Lawyers weren’t allowed to ask him about Simpson’s civil judgment, subsequent turnover orders or anything of that nature.

As a result, his testimony was brief. He was on the stand for 20 minutes, including cross-examination, re-cross and a lengthy pause while attorneys met with Glass.

During his brief time on the stand, He explained how he met Simpson in 1990 and how the two developed a business and personal relationship.

As Simpson’s agent, Gilbert said he handled public appearances, licensing, card contracts, marketing, merchandising and other issues for the former All-Star running back.

He said his relationship with Simpson was once so close that his kids came to know him as “uncle O.J.” Their union has since fizzled, however, and Galanter said the two haven’t spoken in years.

Gilbert identified photos of several memorabilia items for the court that were taken from the hotel room last year, and explained how rare or valuable the various items were.

Galanter then asked him when he met Meadows and if the two shared a relationship. Gilbert confirmed he met Meadows in 1994 or 1995 and had an undisclosed relationship with the woman, then left the stand.

Stewart’s lawyers had no questions for the witness.

Like earlier trial witnesses Thomas Riccio and Charles Cashmore, Gilbert also has written a book about his involvement with Simpson.

“How I Helped OJ Get Away With Murder” was released earlier this year. In it, Gilbert claims Simpson confessed late one night while he was high on marijuana and the prescription sleep aid, Ambien, to killing his ex-wife and Goldman.

When Cashmore returned to the stand Thursday, he told the court that he didn't hear anyone mention a gun before he and the others entered Palace Station hotel Room 1203 last year.

Walter Alexander testified yesterday that Simpson first told his him and his friend, Michael McClinton, to bring “heat” to the raid, and then told McClinton to take out his gun just before they entered the hotel room.

Cashmore began his deposition on Wednesday but had to return Thursday morning to finish answering questions.

He said he did not see Simpson waving an arm up and down as if to say put something down. Previous witnesses have said Simpson or another member of the group shouted “put the gun down” during the raid, and that Simpson was motioning with an arm at the time, as if to tell a gunman to put down his weapon.

Simpson has said guns never were part of the plan and denied they played a role.

Cashmore originally faced 11 of the 12 charges Stewart and Simpson now face, but he has agreed to a plea bargain and has had his charges reduced to one charge of accessory to robbery. He faces a probationable sentence with a maximum of five years in prison.

He didn’t appear to appreciate Simpson’s lawyer, Gabriel Grasso’s, suggestion that he had leveraged his role in the incident for free meals, trips to New York, book deals and TV appearances.

“My life’s been ruined because of this," Cashmore said. He told the court that his father, who is a Montana-based attorney, refuses to speak to him because of the scandal.

“He’s disgraced (because) of the company I kept,” Cashmore said.

Cashmore said he was unemployed when he agreed to help his friend, Stewart, move what he believed was Simpson’s rightful property. He says he has been unable to find work as a result of his involvement in the altercation, and is now homeless.

Metro Police sergeant Rod Hunt took a seat on the witness stand Thursday afternoon. While he now works with the force’s SWAT team, he was working with Metro’s robbery division last year when the alleged robbery took place.

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 home and found two firearms in what appeared to be a bedroom of the North Las Vegas home.

McClinton is one of two alleged gunmen who says Simpson asked them to bring guns to the confrontation. Both have signed plea agreements to testify against Simpson and Stewart in exchange for significantly reduced sentences.

Alexander told the court on Wednesday that Simpson asked McClinton to bring “heat” to the confrontation. He said McClinton gave him one of his guns to use during the raid, and said his friend kept his weapons locked up.

Investigators found both guns, a .22 Beretta and .45 Ruger, loaded alonside extra rounds of ammunition in unlocked dresser drawers in a bedroom of McClinton’s home.

Speas said McClinton’s concealed weapons permit was tucked inside the holster of the Ruger, and showed pictures that he took of the scene.

The guns, ammunition and holsters were all admitted as evidence, assembly in anticipation of McClinton’s testimony, which the court hopes to hear Friday.

Once Speas stepped down District Attorney David Roger indicated that the prosecution’s next witness will be "a rather lengthy one" so Glass dismissed for the day.

The trial will resume – and perhaps will hear from McClinton – tomorrow at 8 a.m. Proceedings began Sept. 15 and are expected to last another two weeks.

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