OJ heads to court to fight for freedom

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Simpson, trial testimony would show, organized a posse of five friends and acquaintances to accompany him to a hotel where he was told some men were trying to sell his mementos, including family pictures. It was to be a sting of sorts, in which the memorabilia dealers would think an anonymous buyer was coming.

When Simpson walked into the hotel room, he realized he knew the sellers from previous dealings and he accused them of stealing from him. He shouted that no one was to leave the room — an action that would be judged to fit the legal definition of kidnapping. As Simpson’s guys began bagging up the memorabilia, one of them pulled a gun, according to trial testimony.

No one was injured, but the sellers called the police — and another Simpson case for another century was launched.

It turned out that Tom Riccio, another memorabilia dealer who played middleman between Simpson and the sellers, had planted a tape recorder in the hotel room and the tape, played for jurors, was powerful evidence.

Simpson’s cohorts testified against him, including the man who said he brought a gun. They were an odd assortment of down-on-their luck Vegas characters who received plea deals and were set free on probation.

Simpson’s co-defendant at his trial, Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, served more than two years in prison before the Nevada Supreme Court overturned his conviction. The justices ruled Simpson’s fame tainted the proceedings and that Stewart should have been tried separately. Stewart took a plea deal to avoid a retrial and was released.

Simpson, meantime, was sentenced by Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass to nine to 33 years in prison. Referencing the earlier murder trial, the judge said that her penalty was not intended as “retribution or any payback for anything else.” She made no mention of the two Las Vegas police detectives overheard in a taped conversation saying that if California authorities couldn’t “get” Simpson, those in Nevada would.
The tape was played at the trial.

On Monday, Simpson will be back before a different judge who agreed to hear evidence on 19 claims of ineffective counsel and attorney conflict of interest. Simpson contends his trial attorney never told him about a plea bargain that had been offered by prosecutors. He also said in a sworn statement that the same attorney knew about the memorabilia sting before it happened, and “he advised me that I was within my legal rights.”

Simpson is expected to testify sometime during the weeklong hearing. Instead of wearing an expensive suit and tie, the man known to Nevada authorities as inmate No. 1027820 will be dressed in plain blue prison garb.

AP Special Correspondent and courts specialist Linda Deutsch has covered O.J. Simpson since 1994, attending every day of the Los Angeles and Las Vegas trials. Associated Press writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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