Monday, July 28, 2008

Saturday, September 15, 2007

O.J. Simpson investigated in alleged robbery at Vegas hotel room

O.J. Simpson investigated in alleged robbery at Vegas hotel room
Article Launched: 09/14/2007 03:19:32 PM PDT

LAS VEGAS—O.J. Simpson was under investigation Friday in an alleged armed robbery at a casino hotel room involving his sports memorabilia, but the former football star said he went to recover items stolen from him and there were no guns.
"Nobody was roughed up," Simpson told The Associated Press by phone. "What I can't understand is these guys are in a room trying to fence stolen goods and I'm the story."

The incident at the Palace Station casino once again hurled Simpson into the headlines more than a decade after he was acquitted of murdering ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in the "Trial of the Century," only to be found civilly liable for their deaths and ordered to pay a $33.5 million judgment.

Police Capt. James Dillon stressed that the investigation was in its "infancy" and that "few facts" had been determined. Officers responded to a call from the hotel just before 8 p.m. Thursday, he said.

"The victim stated that one of the suspects involved in the robbery was O.J. Simpson," Dillon said.

Police said the 911 call was made by Alfred Beardsley, one of the men in the hotel room.

"We have (reports) from the victim that there were weapons involved," Dillon said, but he added that no firearms had been recovered, no charges had been filed and no one was in custody.

Police contacted Simpson after the initial report and talked to him again Friday at his hotel. Dillon said Simpson would not agree to a formal, recorded interview until his lawyer arrived, but did offer some statements about the incident. "We still consider that cooperating," Dillon said.
Simpson would not give police the names of the "three or four" men who accompanied him into the hotel room until his lawyer was present, Dillon said.

He said investigators were trying to untangle the web of ownership of the items in dispute.

"We do have some conflicting statements, there is legitimate information that part or all of the items possibly are the possessions of O.J. Simpson," Dillon said, adding that would not excuse a robbery.

Dillon said investigators had video surveillance tapes and still images from various locations at the hotel but he did not say what they showed.

Simpson told the AP there was no armed robbery and no guns were involved.

"There was no armed robbery here. It wasn't a robbery. They said take your stuff and go," said Simpson, who remained in Las Vegas at a local hotel casino.

Beardsley, a real estate agent and longtime collector of Simpson memorabilia, told the AP that Simpson's account of the incident was fairly accurate except that there were guns.

But in an unusual development, Simpson said he and Beardsley had a friendly phone conversation later Friday and they wanted to resolve the matter.

Of the weapons question, Simpson said: "I didn't see anybody with any guns."

Both Beardsley and Simpson indicated in separate interviews that the underlying issue was recovery of photos from Simpson's childhood.

Simpson was a Heisman Trophy winner in college and a star running back in the NFL. Many of his sports collectibles, including his Heisman Trophy, were seized under court order and auctioned to pay some of the $33.5 million awarded to the Goldman family and the estate of Nicole Brown Simpson.

Now a Miami resident, O.J. Simpson lives off a sizable pension that could not be seized under the civil judgment. But last year, during a scandal over payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars for his participation in a book about the murders, he said he needed the money to get out of debt and to "secure my homestead."

Simpson said that on Thursday he was conducting a sting operation to collect his belongings when he was led to the room.

He said that auction house owner Tom Riccio called him several weeks ago to alert him that collectors were quietly trying to peddle his belongings.

Simpson said he was in Las Vegas for a friend's wedding and arranged to meet Riccio, who set up a meeting with collectors under the guise that he had a private collector interested in buying Simpson's items.

"We walked into the room," Simpson said. "I'm the last one to go in and when they see me, it's all 'Oh God.'"

Simpson said he was accompanied by two men he met at a wedding cocktail party and they took the collectibles, including his Hall of Fame certificate and a picture of him with the late FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover.

Simpson said he wasn't sure where the items were taken. Dillon said some of the items had been recovered but did not specify which ones.

Beardsley said Riccio had contacted him and told him he had a buyer who was a big fan of Simpson and "wanted to buy very personal items and could I give him some very high-end items."

"I've always supported Simpson. When he walked in the room, Simpson said, 'Oh no, not you. I thought you were a good guy,'" Beardsley said.

Beardsley claimed that Riccio actually had found out that Beardsley was going to be involved in a private sale of the childhood photos "and got Simpson all worked up."

Beardsley said the pictures were not in the room but he intended to arrange to get the pictures to Simpson. "I will give him those pictures back, I feel bad about it," he said.

"I'd like to see it go away," Beardsley said of the incident. "We both feel this has gotten way out of control."

A message left for Riccio was not immediately returned.

Riccio told the Los Angeles Times he arranged the meeting after receiving a phone call about a month ago from a person who claimed to have personal items—including footballs, awards and personal photos—that had belonged to Simpson and wanted to sell them.

"Simpson was supposed to show up, identify the items and tell the men to either give the stuff back or he would call the police," Riccio told the newspaper.

The plan unraveled after Simpson showed up with about seven "intimidating looking guys," at least one of whom had a gun, he said.

"We tried to peacefully reacquire these personal items, not for their monetary value, but for their family value. O.J. wanted to be able to pass these things down to his kids," Riccio said.

"They (Simpson and his companions) took the stuff, and they left. What can I say? Things went haywire," he said.

Bruce Fromong, a sports memorabilia collector who testified at Simpson's civil trial, said he witnessed the incident and that Simpson broke into the hotel room and took several collectibles.

"It was home invasion-type thing," he told the Web "Guys come busting through the door at the Palace casino, I mean, literally busting through it. He and some of his guys came in with the guns, hollering and screaming."

Fromong, who reportedly has tried to sell the suit Simpson wore when he was acquitted of murder, described him as at one time being a close friend.

On Thursday, the Goldman family published a book about the killings that Simpson had written under the title, "If I Did It," about how he would have committed the crime had he actually done it. After a deal for Simpson to publish it fell through, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded the book's rights to the Goldman family, who retitled it "If I Did It: The Confessions of a Killer."

Fred Goldman, Ron's Goldman's father, defended the family's decision to publish the book. He said he was stunned by the news from Las Vegas.

"I'm overwhelmed and amazed," Fred Goldman told The Associated Press. "If it turns out as it is currently being played, I think this shows more of who he is. He is proving over and over and over again that he thinks he can do anything and get away with it."

Goldman's lawyer, David Cook, said he would seek a court order on Tuesday to get whatever items Simpson took in Las Vegas.


AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch and Associated Press Writer Jeff Wilson contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

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