Man accusing Simpson of robbery now 'on O.J.'s side'

LAS VEGAS -- A sports memorabilia collector who accused O.J.
Simpson of armed robbery said Saturday that he was "on O.J.'s
side" and wanted the case dropped.

"I want this thing to go away. I have health problems," said
Alfred Beardsley, the collector who told police on Thursday that
Simpson and several other men stormed a Las Vegas hotel room and
stole memorabilia at gunpoint.

Beardsley, of Burbank, Calif., indicated Saturday that he was
not interested in pursuing the case.

"I have no desire to fly back and forth to Las Vegas to
prosecute this," he told The Associated Press. "How are they
going to have a witness who's on O.J.'s side?"

Beardsley said he called police only because the items were
valuable and if he had not reported them as stolen he would be
"held accountable for all the stuff."

Police said they had been in touch with Beardsley, who had not
formally withdrawn his complaint.

Even if he does, "we still have a responsibility to
investigate. He was not the only victim," Lt. Clint Nichols
said. Another collector in the room, Bruce Fromong, had not
indicated that he wants to drop the complaint.

Earlier, Las Vegas police said they were questioning one of the
three or four men who was thought to have accompanied Simpson to
the hotel room. No arrests had been made and police were still
trying to determine what took place before Simpson left the room
with memorabilia he says was stolen from him, Nichols said. Police
think a weapon was involved and they want to review hotel
surveillance tapes to help sort it out.

That will include unraveling the contorted relationships between
the erstwhile athlete and a cadre of collectors that has profited
from his infamy since he was found liable in the deaths of his
ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

At least one of the men considered Simpson a close friend. One
had been his licensing agent. Another had collected Simpson items
for years.

But times have changed.

In a Saturday phone interview with AP, Simpson declared: "None
of these guys are friends of mine."

Beardsley was once a Simpson defender and ally but had recently
appeared "sympathetic" with the families of people Simpson was
accused of killing, an attorney for the family of Ron Goldman said.

Fromong once testified for the
defense in the civil trial brought by the families of Goldman and
Nicole Brown Simpson. Now Fromong says Simpson robbed him, along
with Beardsley, at gunpoint in the room at the Palace Station

Simpson, 60, said he was just trying to retrieve memorabilia,
particularly photos of his wife and children. There were no guns,
he told AP. There was no break-in, he said.

The man Simpson accused of stealing the items from him is Mike
Gilbert, another one-time associate. As Simpson's licensing agent
in the late 1990s, Gilbert admitted snatching Simpson's Heisman
Trophy and other items from his client's Brentwood home as payment
for money he said was owed to him. He later turned the items over
to authorities, save the trophy's nameplate.

Gilbert swore he'd go to jail before turning the nameplate over
to the Goldman family, which was trying to collect on the $33.5
million civil judgment won against Simpson. Gilbert later
surrendered it under court order.

He apparently remained tight with his client through the ordeal.

"It has absolutely not affected our relationship at all,"
Gilbert said in October 1997.

Since then, according to Simpson, their relationship has
changed. Simpson told AP he believes Gilbert stole items from a
storage locker once held in Simpson's mother's name.

Attempts to reach Gilbert by phone were unsuccessful.

Simpson, who lives in Miami, said he expected to find the stolen
items when he went to an arranged meeting Thursday.

The man who arranged the meeting, according to Simpson, was
another man who makes a living on the fringes of the celebrity.

Thomas Riccio, a well-known memorabilia dealer, made headlines
when his auction house, Corona, Calif.-based Universal Rarities,
handled the eBay auction of Anna Nicole Smith's handwritten

Simpson said Riccio called him several weeks ago to inform him
that people "have a lot of your stuff and they don't want anyone
to know they are selling it," Simpson said.

Along with the personal photos, Simpson expected to find one
item in particular: the suit he was wearing when he was acquitted
of murder charges in 1995.

It's not clear where they got the suit, but Beardsley, a former
real estate agent and longtime Simpson collector, and Fromong had
been trying to sell it for several months. They'd recently tried
eBay and the celebrity gossip Web site TMZ.com.

Goldman family attorney David Cook said Beardsley called him
several times with the hopes of arranging a deal.

"When I spoke with him, my impression was that he was very
sympathetic to the Goldmans," Cook said.

That's not the position Beardsley, who once tried to arrange
lucrative autograph signings for Simpson, took in 1999, before a
major auction of Simpson's sports collectibles, including his

"It bothers me that I'm putting money in the Goldman and Brown
pockets," Beardsley told the AP. "I believe he's not responsible
for this crime, and I think there are a lot of people who believe

It was perhaps such statements that made it hard for Simpson to
believe that Beardsley and Fromong were now attempting to profit
off his personal items, which he says include the wedding video
from Simpson's first marriage.

In an interview with TMZ.com, Beardsley noted that during the
alleged robbery in the hotel room Simpson appeared surprised the
pair were the ones selling the items.

"Simpson was saying that 'I liked you, I thought you were a
good guy,"' Beardsley said.

Very quickly the relationship between the collectors and the
celebrity were shifting once again. On Saturday, Beardsley said he
had spoken with Simpson since the incident. He called to apologize,
Beardsley said.

As questions swirled around the curious cast of characters and
their tumultuous meeting, media scrutiny and public interest that
has dogged the fallen athlete was in full swing.

By Saturday afternoon, Simpson's new book, "If I Did It:
Confessions of the Killer," was the top seller on Amazon.com.

None of the men will profit from the book's sales. After a deal
for Simpson to publish it fell through, a federal bankruptcy judge
awarded the book's rights to the Goldman family.