O.J. circus is in full force in Las Vegas

first_imgThis time around, though, his part sometimes becomes secondary in a colorful, confusing story that includes new characters and some familiar old ones. Simpson is accused of holding up collectors of his own memorabilia – taking items he insists had been stolen – but there were already signs that this felony prosecution might prove as challenging as his last one. One of the alleged victims was arrested on a parole violation Thursday, the other was recovering from a heart attack, and the man who allegedly set up the meeting where the confrontation occurred has a criminal record. Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure Jr. set bail Wednesday at $125,000 for a shackled, weary Simpson. Two women with starring roles in his life looked on: Marcia Clark, who unsuccessfully prosecuted Simpson in the 1994 killings and was reporting for “Entertainment Tonight,” and Christine Prody, Simpson’s girlfriend, who bears a striking resemblance to his slain ex-wife. Simpson furrowed his brow as the judge read the list of charges against him. Gone was the slight smirk he flashed when he was arrested Sunday. He answered quietly in a hoarse voice and nodded as the judge laid out restrictions for his release, including surrendering his passport to his attorney and having no contact with co-defendants or potential witnesses. He did not enter a plea. After Simpson was released, a helicopter television crew followed his vehicle leaving the court, oddly reminiscent of the slow-speed chase in which he once fled police in a white Ford Bronco. On the steps of the courthouse, the scene was stranger still. People held signs advertising things such as real estate and an aspiring singer behind Simpson’s lawyers as they held an impromptu news conference. Darren Cone, 45, of Cocoa Beach, Fla., got his 15 seconds on stage when cameras caught him and his wife, Kim, handing out T-shirts that featured a mug shot of Simpson with jail bars in front of it and the message, “Get arrested in Vegas, stay in Vegas.” There was even a man in a chicken suit, who carried a cardboard sign painted with the words, “Not this time, O.J.” On the other side of the sign, the words: “See OJ Run.” The man used the stage name Chicken George. Simpson attorney Yale Galanter said his client did nothing wrong: “You can’t rob something that is yours.” Simpson, 60, flew home to Miami later Wednesday. The Heisman Trophy winner spent three nights in jail after being charged with kidnapping, robbery with use of a deadly weapon, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, coercion with use of a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime. Authorities allege that he and other men went to a hotel room at the Palace Station casino last Thursday night on the pretext of brokering a deal with two longtime collectors, Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong. According to police reports, the collectors were ordered at gunpoint to hand over several items valued at as much as $100,000, including football game balls signed by Simpson, Joe Montana lithographs, baseballs autographed by Pete Rose and Duke Snider and framed awards and plaques. Audiotapes of the confrontation were released to a celebrity Web site, but Beardsley told NBC’s “Today” show that he didn’t think an audiotape made at the scene was accurate. Beardsley was arrested for a parole violation Wednesday. Fromong was recovering from a heart attack in a Los Angeles hospital. Beardsley told police he expected that night that the collection would earn $35,000 from the “client” he had never met. Beardsley told police that one of the men with Simpson brandished a pistol, frisked him and impersonated a police officer and that another man pointed a gun at Fromong. “I’m a cop and you’re lucky this ain’t L.A., or you’d be dead,” the man said, according to a police report. Court records show that the man who arranged the meeting, Tom Riccio, has a criminal history, including grand larceny in Florida in 1984 when he received three years of probation. Riccio has said he was not concerned with how his past might affect his credibility “because everything’s on tape. That’s why it’s on tape.” He also said he had been promised some form of immunity by prosecutors. Legal experts say that issues such as who had rightful ownership of the goods and the reputation of witnesses in the sometimes less-than-reputable world of memorabilia trading could cloud the prosecution’s case. “The credibility of the cohorts in the enterprise would be a key issue at trial,” said USC law professor Jody Armour. Agreed, said Dennis Turner, a professor at the University of Dayton School of Law. “This is a pretty shady world and pretty shady characters dealing with each other in a pretty shady way.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! THE ASSOCIATED PRESS LAS VEGAS – A man in a chicken suit. A Nicole Brown Simpson look-alike. A judge with a goatee and a long ponytail. These are just some of the characters of O.J. TV, a reality show on all the news channels Wednesday. It followed every twist, turn and lane change as a former football star appeared in court, posted bail and was driven away. The circus surrounding O.J. Simpson, charged with committing armed robbery of sports memorabilia at a casino hotel, was reminiscent of the media frenzy when he was accused and later acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend. COURTS: Characters surround Simpson as he posts $125,000 bail and flies home to Florida. By Ryan Nakashima and Chelsea J. Carter last_img read more