O.J. Simpson Returns To Court
Tuesday, November 13th 2007, 7:00 am
News On 6
LAS VEGAS (AP) _ O.J. Simpson returned Tuesday to a courtroom, where he was poised to hear the testimony of two former co-defendants expected to contradict his version of events about the day that he and a group of men entered a hotel room in search of sports memorabilia.
The former football star has maintained in interviews and through his lawyers that he never saw any guns or asked anyone to bring them to the hotel room. The two men scheduled to testify have told police the opposite.
Michael McClinton, 49, and Walter Alexander, 46, have told authorities that Simpson not only saw guns, but suggested firearms be brought to the room where Simpson wanted to retrieve game balls, jerseys, photos and other memorabilia he said were his.
Justice of the Peace Joe M. Bonaventure will decide after the hearing whether there is enough evidence for Simpson and two other men to stand trial.
Simpson waved to spectators when he arrived at the courthouse flanked by his legal team.
Simpson, 60, and two other men face 12 criminal charges including armed robbery, kidnapping with a weapon and conspiracy. A kidnapping conviction could result in a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole. An armed robbery conviction could mean mandatory prison time.
Alexander ``will at least confirm everything he told police,'' his lawyer, Robert Dennis Rentzer, said Monday, ``and he will provide additional information over and beyond what he told police, when he was under considerable stress because he was under arrest.''
``If Walter saw McClinton brandishing a gun in plain view, based on my understanding of the facts, the only way O.J. could not have seen a gun is if he kept his eyes closed during the incident,'' Rentzer said.
Alexander, 46, of Mesa, Ariz., was taken into custody two days after the alleged armed robbery of sports memorabilia dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley at a Las Vegas hotel-casino.
Three men have since taken plea deals, leaving Simpson, 60, of Miami, and Clarence ``C.J.'' Stewart and Charles Ehrlich, both 53, facing the criminal charges.
Alexander pleaded guilty Oct. 23 to conspiracy to commit robbery, a felony, in a plea deal that could get him up to six years in prison. District Attorney David Roger has said prosecutors will seek a suspended sentence, which could get Alexander probation.
McClinton, 49, of Las Vegas, also took a plea deal and was scheduled to plead guilty Tuesday before Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass to robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, felonies that combined could get him probation or up to 11 years in prison.
McClinton, whose lawyer said he worked in the security industry, surrendered two guns and his concealed weapons permit to police. Lawyer William Terry has said McClinton would be able to say Simpson asked him to bring guns when they went to the hotel room at the Palace Station casino.
Police say McClinton wielded a gun and acted like a police officer after the men stormed into the room with Simpson on Sept. 13.
Simpson defense lawyer Gabriel Grasso declined to comment about the case Monday.
Simpson has said he intended only to retrieve items that had been stolen from him by a former agent, including the suit he wore the day he was acquitted in 1995 in the slayings of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
Whether Simpson saw a weapon was a key question following testimony from Fromong, collectibles broker Tom Riccio, and Charles Cashmore, another former co-defendant who took a plea deal in the case.
Cashmore, 40, a laborer, testified that he saw two men with guns during the confrontation, but that he heard Simpson say several times that he never saw a gun. Cashmore also said he heard Simpson say he didn't want to keep any memorabilia that wasn't his.
Cashmore was due before Glass on Tuesday to again plead guilty to felony accessory to robbery, which could get him probation or up to five years in prison. His lawyer, Edward Miley, said Monday that a paperwork problem negated Cashmore's first plea.