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Simpson allegedly paid off witness

December 13, 2008|Harriet Ryan | Ryan is a Times staff writer.

A key witness in O.J. Simpson's Las Vegas trial acknowledged to a Nevada investigator that the former NFL star paid him off, the investigator told a judge in Santa Monica on Friday.

The investigator from the Clark County district attorney's office said Alfred Beardsley, a loquacious collectibles dealer whose credibility was frequently assailed during the trial, claimed Simpson gave him his Hall of Fame ring in exchange for altering his testimony to help the defense.

"I asked, 'What did you get to change your testimony?' " said Bill Falkner, who worked with prosecutors who built the armed robbery and kidnapping case against Simpson.

The answer, he said, was the Hall of Fame ring.

The allegation came at a civil court hearing in which attorneys for Fred Goldman asked a judge to order Beardsley to turn over the ring to help satisfy a $33.5-million wrongful-death judgment against Simpson.

A jury acquitted Simpson of the 1994 killings of Goldman's son, Ron, and Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. A civil jury later found him liable for the deaths.

Beardsley attended the hearing, but when summoned to the witness stand, he invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to testify. His attorney said he had instructed Beardsley not to answer questions because of rumors about a grand jury investigation targeting the memorabilia dealer in Las Vegas.

Simpson was sentenced a week ago to nine to 33 years in prison. A jury convicted him in October of armed robbery, kidnapping and other charges stemming from a confrontation with Beardsley and another memorabilia dealer in a casino hotel room last year.

Prosecutors had called Beardsley as a witness but were taken aback when he testified that someone had tampered with an audio recording crucial to their case.

After Beardsley testified, Falkner drove him back to the state prison in Chino where he was serving time for a parole violation. Falkner said that during the trip, he pressed Beardsley about the change in his testimony.

"My concern in that vehicle was witness tampering by Mr. Simpson," Falkner said in court Friday.

Beardsley, sitting in the front row of the spectator's gallery, guffawed when the investigator testified that the Hall of Fame ring was payoff. Falkner said Beardsley told him he planned to sell it for $120,000, but only after wearing it to Simpson's sentencing.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Gerald Rosenberg ordered Beardsley back to court next Friday to hand over the ring. Outside court, however, his attorney predicted that Beardsley would be empty-handed.

"You can't turn over what you don't have," lawyer Jack Swickard said.

An attorney for Simpson dismissed the allegation, saying Beardsley's penchant for lying was well known to prosecutors. "They know Beardsley's credibility. They don't put any more faith in it than anybody else does," he said.

The lawyer added that Beardsley, who bragged about his connections to Simpson before and after the arrest, was incapable of participating in any endeavor requiring discretion.

"The shot of Beardsley ever having that ring is zero. The minute he would have gotten the ring he would have tried to sell it and tell the world about it," he said.

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harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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