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Simpson charged with 10 felonies in alleged Las Vegas armed robbery

The former football star could face life sentence on charges that he and others robbed a pair of sports memorabilia.

September 19, 2007|Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — O.J. Simpson and three other men were charged Tuesday with 10 felony counts, including kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon, in the purported theft of at least $80,000 worth of sports memorabilia from a hotel room.

If convicted, Simpson, 60, could face life in prison.

The former NFL star and Heisman Trophy winner was being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center. Simpson -- who was acquitted in the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman -- was scheduled to be arraigned this morning.

Also charged in the alleged armed robbery Thursday at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino were Walter Alexander, 46, of Arizona, and Las Vegas residents Clarence Stewart, 53, and Michael McClinton, 49. Alexander was released earlier this week on his own recognizance and his attorney, Robert Rentzer, said he had struck a plea deal with prosecutors. Stewart posted $78,000 bail. McClinton turned himself in to police Tuesday afternoon.

"My client didn't know what O.J. was going to do" when he agreed to drive him to a Thursday meeting at the Palace Station, said Stewart's attorney, Robert G. Lucherini.

According to his client, Lucherini said, no one in Room 1203 -- where two collectors were trying to sell photos and sports memorabilia that Simpson said were stolen from him -- pulled out a gun.

The four men face charges of conspiracy to commit a kidnapping; coercion with a deadly weapon; burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon; conspiracy to commit robbery, and two counts each of first-degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon, robbery with use of a deadly weapon and assault with a deadly weapon. They also were each charged with one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to commit a crime.

Police were searching Tuesday for two other suspects whose identities were not known.

Laurie L. Levenson, a Loyola University Law School professor and former federal prosecutor, said authorities had filed so many charges that "even if O.J. does bargain, he will still have a significant conviction. . . .

"This is a lot for him to fight, and this time he has no Dream Team to see him through this minefield," she said referring to the legal team that defended him during his murder trial.

Simpson has said he was in Las Vegas for the wedding of Thomas Scotto, 45, who was one of the initial suspects but was cleared, said Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Lt. Clint Nichols.

Simpson's daughter was the wedding planner, Lucherini said, and on Thursday had asked Stewart, a Simpson golfing buddy, to help her run errands. When Stewart dropped her off, Simpson jumped into Stewart's Lincoln Navigator with two other men. Simpson told Stewart that he needed a ride to reclaim his stolen property.

Thomas Riccio, a California auctioneer, has said he arranged the meeting between Simpson and collectors Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong, who had possession of signed baseballs and game footballs, among other items.

Riccio surreptitiously tape-recorded the meeting and provided it to the celebrity website TMZ.com, which posted the expletive-laced confrontation Monday.

At one point, according to court documents, Simpson ripped Fromong's cellphone out of his hands to stop him from calling 911 as another man pointed a gun. Fromong, who suffered a heart attack Monday, was in critical condition at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The reported armed robbery occurred the same day the Goldman family published a book, written by Simpson, about how he would have gone about killing his ex-wife and Ronald Goldman -- had he done it.

A judge had awarded the book's rights to the Goldmans after Simpson's publishing deal fell through.

After his acquittal, Simpson was found liable in a wrongful-death civil case that the Goldman family filed. Since then, he has had several run-ins with the law.

Levenson, the former federal prosecutor, said that "O.J. cases have a way of taking on a life of their own. It's way too early to handicap this one."

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ashley.powers@latimes.com

Times staff writer Henry Weinstein in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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