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Simpson says he did 'nothing wrong' in Vegas

He tells of an effort to reclaim his stolen items: 'That's not robbery.'

September 16, 2007|Scott Glover | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — If O.J. Simpson is concerned about his most recent brush with the law, it was not apparent Saturday as the former NFL star lounged poolside at the Palms Hotel.

"I'm not walking around feeling sad or anything. I've done nothing wrong," Simpson told The Times. "I'm having a great time."

Besides, he quipped, "I thought what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas."

Earlier, in an interview in the hotel lobby, Simpson offered the most detailed public account to date of a confrontation Thursday night that has led to an investigation of him and some associates, on suspicion of robbing two men of sports memorabilia and other items at gunpoint.

Simpson said he and his friends went to the Palace Station Hotel & Casino to reclaim personal photos -- some snapped by his slain ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson -- and football souvenirs.

Simpson said the meeting was arranged by a California auctioneer who had been contacted by the prospective sellers and was suspicious about how the men had obtained the items. The auctioneer, Thomas Riccio, set up the meeting with the sellers, Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong, Simpson said.

Simpson said he brought some "golfing buddies and some of their friends" to the meeting to help him carry his belongings out of the hotel.

He strongly denied that he or anyone else in his group was armed, as Riccio and the sellers have alleged.

"I'm O.J. Simpson. How am I going to think that I'm going to rob somebody and get away with it?" he said during a 20-minute interview. "You've got to understand, this ain't somebody going to steal somebody's drugs or something like that. This is somebody going to get his private [belongings] back. That's it. That's not robbery."

Police, however, are taking the allegation against him seriously, according to a story published Saturday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which reported that an unnamed source close to the investigation said: "We do believe a robbery occurred and O.J. was part of it. He went there with goons who were armed."

Simpson declined to identify the men who were with him, but he said they were dressed in suits and headed to a dinner party later in the evening.

"They're not gangsters -- not that I know of, anyway," he said. "I don't hang out with gangsters. I hang out with golfers."

Thursday's incident is the latest in legal tangle for Simpson. Since his acquittal in the 1994 deaths of his ex-wife and her friend Ronald Goldman, Simpson has been accused of assaulting a photographer (but not charged), charged in a road-rage incident (but acquitted) and ticketed for speeding through a Florida manatee zone in a power boat (he paid a $130 fine) -- among other run-ins with police.

But Saturday, dressed in a white polo shirt, blue bathing suit, white tennis shoes and a white visor, the 60-year-old former running back smiled and waved to passersby who recognized him in the lobby. One man pumped his fist in the air and said "Juice"; others asked to take photos or shoot video of him, requests Simpson declined.

During the interview, Simpson acknowledged he became emotional when he entered the Palace Station hotel room and saw that Beardsley and Fromong -- whom he knows from past dealings -- were trying to sell what he insists were items stolen from him by a former sports agent.

"Why would you steal from me? I have never been bad to you guys," Simpson said he shouted at one point.

Simpson said the former agent stole the items, along with the suit he was wearing on the day he was acquitted of killing his former wife and Goldman, when the agent helped him move out of his home on Rockingham Drive in Brentwood. He said the agent once worked with Fromong and owed him money, and had turned over the stolen items to Fromong to settle the debt. Fromong was not immediately available for comment.

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scott.glover@latimes.com

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