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Simpson freed on bail amid Vegas frenzy

As he appears at a court hearing granting him $125,000 bond, a circus rages -- with even a cameo by Marcia Clark.

September 20, 2007|Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — There were T-shirts proclaiming, "Get arrested in Vegas, stay in Vegas." There was a man in a chicken suit. And in a nod to the last time O.J. Simpson's legal woes turned a city topsy-turvy, there was Marcia Clark, who once unsuccessfully prosecuted the former football star for murder.

But the circus outside the Regional Justice Center was a marked contrast to the somber hearing during which Simpson was granted $125,000 bail. He and three others face 10 felony counts in connection with the alleged theft last week of at least $80,000 worth of sports memorabilia from a room at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino.

If convicted, Simpson could get life in prison.

The Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Fame running back -- dressed in a blue prison jumpsuit and orange slippers -- had his hands cuffed as he entered the courtroom packed with media. In the middle row of benches sat his sister, his daughter and his girlfriend, Christine Prody.

In a hearing that lasted less than 10 minutes, Clark County Dist. Atty. David Roger outlined a deal reached with Simpson's attorneys to allow their client to be released on bail. He was instructed to relinquish his passport and was ordered to stay away from any suspects or potential witnesses in the case.

"There will be no direct contact, no indirect contact with anyone whatsoever. If you see them walking, you cross the street to the other side," Judge Joseph Bonaventure admonished Simpson in a stern tone.

"Yes, sir," Simpson responded softly.

A few hours later, Simpson left the detention facility. A television helicopter followed the vehicle he was riding in as it pulled away. Simpson, 60, was expected to fly home to Miami. He would have to return to Las Vegas for his next court date, which was tentatively scheduled for late October.

Yale L. Galanter, Simpson's Florida-based attorney, said at a news conference after the hearing that his client would avoid the spotlight for a while.

"You don't fight for your client in front of TV cameras. You fight for your client in front of a judge and jury," he said.

The courthouse scene, however, was anything but low-key.

Clark -- who prosecuted Simpson in the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman -- was there reporting for "Entertainment Tonight."

People began gathering at the Regional Justice Center's steps at sunrise. Some held signs:

"He was set up."

"No blood for O.J."

"Not this time O.J."

One man raised a bottle of orange juice.

The news conference was repeatedly interrupted by a bespectacled man in an "I [Heart] Famous People" ball cap. He was missing several front teeth. The man tried, unsuccessfully, to high-five Galanter. He yelled that Simpson "is innocent and not guilty!" At one point, he answered his cellphone and whispered that he was too busy to chat.

After a while the man retreated to a cafe across from the justice center, where signs warned, "Street girls bringing attorneys into the restaurant must pay for orders in advance."

Two other men linked to the case -- in which Simpson is charged with armed robbery and kidnapping in what he said was an attempt to retrieve memorabilia stolen from him -- were taken into custody Wednesday.

Alfred Beardsley, 46, one of the collectors who accused Simpson, was arrested at the Luxor hotel here Wednesday on an unrelated outstanding warrant.

Authorities said that by leaving California, Beardsley had violated his parole in a Riverside County case. In 2005, Beardsley was sentenced two years in prison for stalking his ex-girlfriend. He told police, according to court papers, "Personally, I think she just wants me back."

Authorities also booked Charles H. Cashmore, 40, of Las Vegas, into the Clark County detention center after he turned himself in to Las Vegas police. Lt. Clint Nichols said that Cashmore turned over some of the sports memorabilia taken from the Palace Station hotel. Police still are looking for another unidentified male suspect.

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ashley.powers@latimes.com

Times staff writers Miguel Bustillo in Houston and Sara Lin in Riverside contributed to this report.

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