O.J. Simpson to Face New Criminal Trial
LAS VEGAS (AP) - More than a decade after his acquittal on murder charges, O.J. Simpson will again stand trial in a case certain to capture the national spotlight.
The former football star said he wasn't surprised when a justice of the peace ordered him on Wednesday to defend himself against charges including kidnapping and armed robbery in a suspected sports memorabilia heist. He also said he trusted jurors to do what's right.
"If I have any disappointment it's that I wish a jury was here," Simpson told The Associated Press before he left the courtroom. "As always, I rely on the jury system."
Justice of the Peace Joe M. Bonaventure refused to dismiss any charges in a 12-count complaint against Simpson and co-defendants Clarence "C.J." Stewart and Charles "Charlie" Ehrlich, which stem from a Sept. 13 confrontation in a casino hotel room. Prosecutors accuse Simpson of leading the suspected armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers.
The defendants are to enter their pleas on Nov. 28.
Three of the men who accompanied Simpson, including two who said they carried guns, took plea deals and testified for the prosecution during the 3 1/2-day preliminary hearing.
Defense attorneys characterized the witnesses as con artists and crooks out for a buck.
Bonaventure said the testimony was an issue to be weighed by the court and that the defense had raised questions of "bought" testimony. He said there were a number of motive and credibility issues, but that they were "not so incredible or implausible" to keep the case from a jury.
A kidnapping conviction could result in a life sentence with possibility of parole. An armed robbery conviction would require some time in prison.
Simpson will spend the next two weeks in Miami golfing and spending time with his family before returning to Las Vegas to be arraigned, attorney Yale Galanter said.
The trial could begin within 60 days, but Chief Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Douglas Smith said coordinating court and lawyers' calendars could push it back six months or longer.
Galanter, who rejected the idea of a plea agreement, estimated it would take a year to bring the case to trial.
Stewart's lawyer, Robert Lucherini, said he may seek to have his client's trial separated from Simpson's.
"We're disappointed, but we understand the judge's decision," Lucherini said.
Ehrlich's attorney declined to comment.
Outside the courthouse, Galanter argued that Simpson was trying only to reclaim family heirlooms and that he believed no crime was committed.
"I have never been in a case where every witness had a financial motive, where every witness had a credibility problem," he said.
Another Simpson lawyer, Gabriel Grasso, said it was unclear whether prosecutors considered it kidnapping to lure two sports memorabilia dealers to a hotel room - or whether the charge was based on the confrontation that followed.
"This is clearly overcharging," he said.
Simpson, 60, has maintained that no guns were displayed, that he never asked anyone to bring guns and that he did not know anyone had guns. He has said he intended only to retrieve items that had been stolen from him by a former agent, including the suit he wore the day he was acquitted of murder in 1995 in the slayings of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Simpson and the other defendants did not testify in their own defense.
A defense lawyer contended that the case was based on the accounts of "crackheads and groupies and pimps and purveyors of stolen merchandise and gun carriers and con artists and crooks."
"These guys are bad. The court can't ascribe any credibility to what came out of their mouths," said attorney John Moran Jr., who represents Ehrlich. "Every witness up there was looking to sell testimony and make money off of this case."
Prosecutor Chris Owens offered no defense of their characters but said: "It's not like the state went out and found the witnesses. These are people aligned with O.J. Simpson. These are the people he surrounds himself with."
The witnesses corroborated one another's stories, and recordings, video and photographs supported the charges, Owens said.
Michael "Spencer" McClinton, Walter "Goldie" Alexander and Charles Cashmore struck deals with prosecutors and testified against Simpson.
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