Simpson cleared of burglary, battery in Fla. road-rage trial

Wednesday, October 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ O.J. Simpson was acquitted of all charges Wednesday after another motorist accused him of snatching his glasses and scratching his face during a roadside confrontation last year.

Simpson put his hand to his chest and mouthed 'thank you' as he nodded his head toward the jury. He then hugged his attorneys.

The 54-year-old Simpson had faced up to 16 years in jail had he been convicted of auto burglary and battery for the dispute with Jeffrey Pattinson in their suburban Miami neighborhood. The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes.

The two men offered vastly different accounts of what happened. Pattinson testified that Simpson ran a stop sign, then acted like ``a madman'' after Pattinson got him to pull over by flashing his lights and honking his horn.

Simpson accused the other man of ``sitting on his horn'' and said he thought Pattinson was seeking an autograph or was trying to tell him about a problem with his car.

He denied reaching into Pattinson's car and said the two men confronted each other outside their vehicles.

He said Pattinson lied about staying in his car, which prompted the prosecutor to ask whether Simpson would ever lie. Simpson responded, ``I've never been put in that position to have to lie with my life on the line.''

During closing arguments, prosecutor Abbe Rifkin did everything but call Simpson a liar, saying the actor came out in him as he testified.

``He is a figment of his own imagination. He's a legend in his own mind,'' she said. ``Mr. Simpson's story changes and evolves with time.''

Defense attorney Yale Galanter said Pattinson had chased down Simpson to provoke a confrontation after Simpson turned in front of him at a stop sign.

``Pattinson became a vigilante,'' Galanter said. ``He wants to play cop instead of calling a cop.''

Simpson offered no explanation for the scratch on Pattinson's face but explained his thumbprint on the glasses by saying it must have happened when he brushed them away as he broke off the 30-second, profanity-laced confrontation.

Simpson was cleared of criminal charges in the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, but a civil jury later ordered him to pay $33.5 million for their deaths. He moved to Florida last year.