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Just the Facts, Ma'am, in Heisman Caper

August 19, 1994|MIKE DOWNEY

This is the city, Los Angeles, California. My name is Downey. My partner's name is Friday. I carry a press badge.

On July 28 of this year, I was working the always busy Sports Criminal Division of the Los Angeles Police Department when a call came in. In a building called Heritage Hall, situated on the campus of one of our top Southern California educational facilities, a daring burglary had occurred. My partner and I were assigned to investigate.

"What was stolen, Cap'n?"

"You won't believe it."

"Try me."

"The Heisman Trophy."

We nodded.

"Check it out."

"Yes, sir."

"Any questions?"

"Just one."


"Any idea where we can find this Mr. Heisman?"

10:17 a.m.: After taking the traffic-snarled but functionally designed Harbor Freeway from headquarters, we arrived at the bustling campus of the University of Southern California, where we were directed by a student to the department of men's athletics.

We spoke to a Mr. Garrett. He explained to us that the missing trophy did not actually belong to this Heisman, but merely bore that name, like the Hope Diamond. He pointed to a vacant spot on a pedestal. We nodded.

I needed some straight answers. I decided to ask this Mr. Garrett whose trophy it was.

"So whose trophy was it?"

"You won't believe it.

"Try me."

"It was O.J. Simpson's."

"Yes, sir."

"You've heard of O.J. Simpson?"

"Yes, sir. You just mentioned him."

"I mean the O.J. Simpson."

We nodded.

Mr. Garrett had been helpful. He told us that the first police officers on the scene had found "fingerprints from two adult males." We were pleased that they were able to tell adult male fingerprints from adult female fingerprints. We thanked Mr. Garrett for his help. He nodded.

"I'm just glad they didn't get mine."

"Your what?"

"My Heisman Trophy."

"You have one of these trophies?"

"Right over there."

He pointed. We nodded. There were trophies all over the hall. We wondered why burglars would quote-unquote "rip off," as the youngsters say, one trophy and not these others. I told Mr. Garrett we would do our best to recover this missing trophy.

"Thank you, officer."

"And then we'll look for that other thing."

"What's that?"

"That diamond of Bob Hope's."

11:47 a.m.: We drove to a federal courthouse downtown, where we hoped to interview this Mr. Simpson to whom the stolen trophy apparently belonged. We found ourselves in the packed courtroom of Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito, where a surprising amount of activity was taking place. My partner pointed to two empty seats in back. I nodded.

12:30 p.m.: As the trial recessed for lunch, we attempted to interview Mr. Simpson but were rebuffed by his attorneys, of whom there appeared to be several. I asked a Mr. Shapiro if he could provide any information on his client's missing football trophy. He said he had greater concerns at the moment. He looked busy. We nodded.

Another attorney, a Ms. Clark, interrupted.

"Maybe it's in there."

"What's in where, ma'am?"

"See that sealed envelope on the judge's desk?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Maybe the trophy's in there."

We nodded. The envelope seemed rather thin to contain such a large trophy, but Ms. Clark suggested that perhaps the bronze statue had been melted down. She said we definitely should satisfy our curiosity and look inside the envelope. She even volunteered to inspect the contents of the envelope along with us, if we preferred. We nodded.

1:02 p.m.: Asked to leave his courtroom immediately by a surprisingly angry Judge Ito, we decided to visit several neighborhood pawn shops, where so-called "hot" merchandise could often be found. On our first stop, we got lucky.

"Yeah. Two guys were just in here."

"With a trophy?"


"Tiny football player on top?"

"Yeah. Little stiff-armed guy."

We nodded. The pawnbroker told us that two adult males had attempted to hock the football trophy shortly before noon. They claimed it to be an authentic Heisman Trophy won by O.J. Simpson and said they had found it on the sidewalk. They wanted 50 bucks for it.

"But I said no."

"Why's that?"

"Officer, you ever try to sell a Heisman Trophy?"

"No, sir."

"It ain't like sellin' some clock radio."

We nodded. The case was a dead end. We drove back to Heritage Hall to snoop around. Maybe something had turned up.

2:19 p.m.: A woman handed us a bundle, wrapped in newspaper. We opened the package. Inside was the Heisman Trophy.

My partner grabbed my arm.

"We've got it!"

"You're hurting me."

The woman asked what the statue was. I held it in my hand.

"The stuff dreams are made of."

We took her downtown and booked her on illegal possession of an award. We needed a fall guy.

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