The taking of money or goods in the possession of another, from his or her person or immediate presence, by force or intimidation.
O.J. Simpson Indicted for Kidnapping and Armed Robbery
On September 16, 2007, famed football legend O.J. Simpson was arrested by police and booked on several felony charges following a confrontation with a sports memorabilia dealer at the Palms Casino-Hotel in Las Vegas on September 13. If convicted on the felony kidnapping and armed robbery charges, he again faced the possibility of life in prison. Simpson, 60, had been acquitted more than a decade previously for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, in a media-sensationalized trial that lasted for months. However, he was later found liable in a civil lawsuit for wrongful death filed by the murder victims' families.
Simpson was booked on two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit burglary and burglary with a firearm. He later posted $250,000 bail and was released from jail to await trial.
Simpson's version of the facts surrounding the arrest included a statement that no guns were involved and that he went to the room at the casino only to get personal mementos and sports memorabilia that were stolen, including his Hall of Fame certificate and a picture of him with J. Edgarhoover. Simpson told reporters that auction house owner Tom Riccio had called him several weeks earlier to advise that several collectors were selling some of his items. According to Simpson, Riccio set up a meeting with the collectors, under the ruse of having a private collector interested in purchasing the items. Simpson said he and several men (whom he previously met at a wedding cocktail party) then went to the hotel room set up for the meeting and took the items. He told the Associated Press that he and co-defendants Charles Ehrlich and Clarence “C.J.” Stewart were merely retrieving those items that belonged to him. He stated that he did not contact police or request their help in reclaiming the items because he found the police unresponsive to him ever since his wife and her friend were killed in 1994.
On the evening prior to Simpson's arrest, police had already arrested Walter Alexander, whom they say accompanied Simpson with a gun in the holdup on the night in question (September 13, 2007). Police did not allege that Simpson personally carried a weapon in the incident, but stated they had seized two firearms involved in the robbery. Pursuant to three search warrants at private residences, they also seized sports memorabilia signed by Simpson, as well as collectible baseballs and Joe Montana cleats. Whether Simpson was the owner of the seized items was a factual issue for trial.
At pretrial evidentiary hearings (similar to grand jury hearings, intended to establish whether sufficient evidence existed to warrant the charges), witnesses conflicted with one another in their testimony. A key issue was whether Simpson knew that a gun or guns would be used, and/or whether he had requested his accomplices to appear with guns. Simpson had stated on several occasions following the incident that he did not see any guns in the hotel room at the time of the confrontation. But Riccio, the man who set up the meeting, testified that he saw at least one gun waving near his face. Notwithstanding, Riccio testified it was possible that Simpson, who was standing several feet in front of the accomplice who had a gun, did not see it. Other witnesses who were expected to testify had previously stated that Simpson not only saw the guns, but suggested that firearms be brought to the hotel room.
According to Riccio, the group did not enter the hotel room in a “military style invasion,” as previously suggested by another witness. He said that Bruce Fromong, one of the collectors, was loudly “scolded” by Simpson for possessing items that Simpson declared were his. But, said Riccio, things changed when the men started taking items not claimed by Simpson, such as Fromong's cell phone and the Joe Montana lithographs. “Things went crazy” after that, testified Riccio, and once the weapon was brandished, “there was no turning back.” A contemporaneous recording of the event was played in court at the hearing. In it, Simpson and others could be heard cursing and yelling. Toward the end, a male voice was heard saying, “We were just robbed at gunpoint, man. We were just robbed at gunpoint by O.J. Simpson.”
Simpson's attorney, Yale Galanter, vowed a vigorous defense, based on “conflicting witness statements, flip-flopping by witnesses and witnesses making deals with the government to flip.” Alfred Beardsley, one of the collectors in the hotel room at the time, stated he wanted the case dropped and that he was “on O.J.'s side.” He blamed the entire incident on Tom Riccio, saying that Riccio had lied to Simpson and gotten him “all pumped up.”
In March 2008, Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass agreed to postpone Simpson's trial from April 7 until September 8, 2008. She anticipated a maximum six-week trial, and also noted the difficulty in selecting an appropriate unbiased jury. Earlier in the year, lawyers and court officials were preparing jury screening questionnaires that contained more than 100 questions and were expected to be sent to more than 400 potential jurors. The judge further decided that Simpson and co-defendants Charles Ehrlich and Clarence “C.J.” Stewart would be tried together. She refused to dismiss any of the 12 charges against them. The defendants entered “ not guilty” pleas at their arraignments.