LAS VEGAS -- O.J. Simpson, who went from American sports
idol to celebrity-in-exile after he was acquitted of murder in
1995, was found guilty Friday of robbing two sports memorabilia
dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel room.
The 61-year-old former football star could spend the rest of his
life in prison. Sentencing was set for Dec. 5.
A weary and somber Simpson released a heavy sigh as the charges
were read by the clerk in Clark County District Court. He was
immediately taken into custody.
The Hall of Fame football star was convicted of kidnapping,
armed robbery and 10 other charges for gathering up five men a year
ago and storming into a room at a hotel-casino, where the group
seized several game balls, plaques and photos. Prosecutors said two
of the men with him were armed; one of them said Simpson asked him
to bring a gun.
The verdict came 13 years to the day after Simpson was cleared
of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend,
Ronald Goldman, in Los Angeles in one of the most sensational
trials of the 20th century.
"I don't like to use the word payback," defense attorney Yale
Galanter said. "I can tell you from the beginning my biggest
concern ... was whether or not the jury would be able to separate
their very strong feelings about Mr. Simpson and judge him fairly
Simpson's co-defendant, Clarence "C.J." Stewart, 54, also was
found guilty on all charges in the Las Vegas case and taken into
Simpson showed little emotion as officers handcuffed him and
walked him out of the courtroom. His sister, Carmelita Durio,
sobbed behind him in the arms of Simpson's friend, Tom Scotto, who
said, "I love you," as Simpson passed by. As spectators left the
courtroom, Durio collapsed.
Jurors made no eye contact with the defendants as they entered
the courtroom. They declined to answer questions after the verdict
Galanter said his client had expected the outcome, and in a
courthouse conversation with an Associated Press reporter on
Thursday, Simpson had implied as much.
Simpson said he felt melancholy and that he was "afraid that I
won't get to go to my kids' college graduations after I managed to
get them through college."
Galanter said it was not a happy day for anybody. "His only
hope is the appellate process," he said.
Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said prosecutors would not
comment until the case was "completely resolved."
Judge Jackie Glass made no comment other than to thank the jury
for its service and to deny motions for the defendants to be
released on bail.
She refused to give the lawyers extended time to file a motion
for new trial, which under Nevada law must be filed within seven
days. The attorneys said they needed time to submit a voluminous
"I've sat through the trial," Glass said. "If you want a
motion for new trial, send me something."
Stewart's attorney, Brent Bryson, promised to appeal.
"If there was ever a case that should have been severed in the
history of jurisprudence, it's this case," he said of unsuccessful
attempts to separate Stewart's case from Simpson's because of the
From the beginning, Simpson and his lawyers argued the incident
was not a robbery, but an attempt to reclaim mementos that had been
stolen from him. He said he did not ask anyone to bring a weapon
and did not see any guns.
The defense portrayed Simpson as a victim of shady characters
who wanted to make a buck off his famous name, and police officers
who saw his arrest as an opportunity to "get" him and avenge his
Prosecutors said Simpson's ownership of the memorabilia was
irrelevant; it was still a crime to try to take things by force.
"When they went into that room and forced the victims to the
far side of the room, pulling out guns and yelling, 'Don't let
anybody out of here!' -- six very large people detaining these two
victims in the room with the intent to take property through force
or violence from them -- that's kidnapping," prosecutor David Roger
Kidnapping is punishable by five years to life in prison. Armed
robbery carries a mandatory sentence of at least two years behind
bars, and could bring as much as 30.
Simpson, who now lives in Miami, did not testify but was heard
on a recording of the confrontation screaming that the dealers had
stolen his property. "Don't let nobody out of this room," he
declared and told the other men to scoop up his items, which
included a photo of Simpson with former FBI Director J. Edgar
Four other men charged in the case struck plea bargains that
saved them from potential prison sentences in return for their
testimony. Some of them had criminal records or were otherwise
compromised in some way. One, for example, was an alleged pimp who
testified he had a revelation from God telling him to take a plea
Memorabilia dealer Thomas Riccio, who arranged and secretly
recorded the hotel-room confrontation, said he netted $210,000 from
the media for the tapes.
Similarly, minutes after the Sept. 13, 2007, incident, one of
the alleged victims, sports-memorabilia dealer Alfred Beardsley,
was calling news outlets, and the other, Bruce Fromong, spoke of
getting "big money" from the case.
Simpson's past haunted the case. Las Vegas police officers were
heard in the recordings chuckling over Simpson's misfortune and
crowing that if Los Angeles couldn't "get" him, they would.
During jury selection, Simpson's lawyers expressed fears that
people who believed he got away with murder might see this case as
a chance to right a wrong.
As a result, an usually large pool of 500 potential jurors was
called, and they were given a 26-page questionnaire. Half were
almost instantly eliminated after expressing strong feelings that
Simpson should have been convicted of murder.
The judge instructed the jurors to put aside Simpson's earlier
In closing arguments, Galanter acknowledged that what Simpson
did to recover his memorabilia was not right. "But being stupid,
and being frustrated is not being a criminal," he said.
He added: "This case has taken on a life of its own because of
Mr. Simpson's involvement. You know that. I know that. Every
cooperator, every person who had a gun, every person who had an
ulterior motive, every person who signed a book deal, every person
who got paid money, the police, the district attorney's office, is
only interested in one thing: Mr. Simpson."