O.J. Heads Back to Court

O.J. Simpson's latest court battle is hardly shaping up as another Trial of the Century. There is no Dream Team. Instead of the bloody glove, there is the fingernail scratch.

Jury selection is set to begin on Tuesday. Though it could take up to a month to seat a jury, it is expected to take less than two days to hear testimony on charges that Simpson snatched another motorist's glasses in a fit of road rage last year.

The burglary and battery charges carry up to 16 years in prison, but Simpson is likely to face a sentence of only counseling if convicted.

"These charges should have been dropped long ago. O.J. Simpson maintains his innocence,'' said defense attorney Yale Galanter. The former football star "is being unfairly targeted as a result of his celebrity status and notoriety."

Simpson was cleared by a criminal jury but found liable by a civil jury in the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife and her friend, and was ordered to pay $33.5 million.

The Dec. 4 road encounter unfolded in the upscale suburban neighborhood in Kendall where Simpson and two of his children moved last year. Jeffrey Pattinson said Simpson's Lincoln Navigator rolled through a stop sign, and Pattinson flashed his lights.

Simpson pulled over, got out and the two exchanged words. Pattinson said Simpson reached in and grabbed his glasses.

The burglary charge is for allegedly reaching through the open window; the battery count is for a small scratch suffered by Pattinson.

Last week, the judge agreed to admit what could prove to be a central piece of evidence — Simpson's thumbprint on Pattinson's glasses.

Galanter has said Simpson "was not the aggressor." The defense attorney has portrayed Pattinson as a hothead, alleging he honked his horn, flashed his lights and tailgated Simpson for at least 150 yards.

"That just doesn't impress me as the act of a man who's cool, calm and collected," Galanter said.

Pattinson's 10-year-old, 800-page divorce file has been examined by attorneys on both sides. Prosecutor Abbe Rifkin said the record contains no sign that Pattinson was aggressive toward his wife. The defense has not said how or if it intends to use the divorce file.

Simpson's children Sydney, 15, and Justin, 12, were with him in the SUV but will not be called as prosecution witnesses when Simpson makes his Court TV comeback. They are expected to stay well out of the spotlight, attending private school as usual.

The 54-year-old Simpson draw gawkers when he drops in at neighborhood bars, golf courses and stores. Since he moved to Florida last year, police have been called four times in incidents involving Simpson and one-time girlfriend Christie Prody.

While the courthouse has made room for cameras and satellite trucks and has gotten a stream of news media calls about the Simpson trial, court spokeswoman Nan Markowitz said she believes she got more calls during former tennis star Boris Becker's child-custody dispute earlier this year.