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O.J. Simpson jailed in Las Vegas robbery case

September 17, 2007|Matt Lait, Stuart Silverstein and Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writers

LAS VEGAS — Former football great O.J. Simpson faces new legal battles after being arrested Sunday in connection with an alleged robbery of sports memorabilia from a Las Vegas hotel room.

Simpson, 60, was in custody at the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas on Sunday night after a judge ordered that he be held without bail, pending an arraignment set for Thursday. He was booked earlier in the day on suspicion of two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit burglary and burglary with a firearm.

Simpson has said he and his companions went to the room at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino on Thursday night to reclaim personal photos -- some snapped by his slain ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson -- and football souvenirs that he said had been stolen by a former agent. He said that no one in his group was armed; police said Sunday that they found two guns after the incident and that members of Simpson's entourage had pointed weapons at people in the room.

For Simpson, it was a new episode in a series of legal tangles dating back to the June 1994 slayings of his ex-wife and her friend Ronald Goldman. Although the former USC and National Football League running back was acquitted in that case, Simpson was found liable in a wrongful-death civil lawsuit brought by the Goldman family, which was awarded $38 million.

Since the mid-1990s, Simpson also has been accused of assaulting a photographer (though not charged), charged and acquitted in a road-rage incident and ticketed for speeding through a Florida manatee zone in a power boat, among other run-ins with police.

Simpson's arrest also comes shortly after the publication of "If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer," a hypothetical account by Simpson of how he would have committed the 1994 slayings if he had been the assailant. In the book, which the Goldman family won the rights to as part of their effort to recoup their civil judgment, Simpson sketches a scenario in which he and another man went to his ex-wife's town house to scare her and "something went horribly wrong."

On Sunday, police officials said, Simpson was arrested around 11:05 a.m. by Las Vegas detectives at a hotel where he was staying, the Palms Casino Resort. They said he was taken into custody without incident.

Clark County Dist. Atty. David Roger said Sunday that he intended to formally file charges this week against Simpson and his companions.

If he is tried and convicted on all the charges, Roger said, Simpson will probably be sentenced to at least three years in prison. The maximum sentence on the charges could be decades in prison.

Roger said the investigation was ongoing and prosecutors would not be influenced by the notoriety of the defendant. "We live in Las Vegas and have a lot of high-profile cases and a lot of high-profile defendants," he said.

"This case will take it to another level," he said.

In an interview with The Times on Sunday morning, moments before his arrest, Simpson said he was unaware of anyone being arrested and had not been contacted by police. He said he had been out late the night before, attending a friend's wedding, and had just awakened and hadn't even had a chance to brush his teeth. He said was getting ready to watch some golf on TV.

"They know where I am. They've got my numbers. They know my schedule," Simpson said from his hotel room. "All I can tell you is I have nothing to hide, so I'm being completely cooperative with the police."

He added, "I hope the police are trying to find out the truth rather than just building a case."

Minutes later, police arrested Simpson at his room. His attorney could not be reached for comment Sunday.

At the news conference, police officials disclosed that Simpson's arrest came after the booking early that morning of another suspect, Walter Alexander, 46, of Mesa, Ariz.

Attorney Robert Dennis Rentzer, who represents Alexander, said authorities spoke to his client under an agreement that bars prosecutors from using his statements against him in court.

Capt. James Dillon of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, speaking at a news conference televised on CNN, said information provided by Alexander led police to carry out searches at three undisclosed sites. In those searches, Dillon said, police seized two firearms believed to have been used in the alleged armed robbery, along with clothing worn by some of the suspects and allegedly stolen property.

Nichols, at the same news conference, said authorities "don't believe that anyone was roughed up, but there were firearms in the commission or the robbery" that were pointed at occupants of the room. Police had no evidence that Simpson himself used a weapon, Nichols said.

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