LAS VEGAS – One of two memorabilia dealers O.J. Simpson is accused of robbing testified Thursday that the former football star burst into a hotel room with a handful of other men, including one who pointed a gun in his face, and, amid a chaotic scene filled with screamed threats and accusations, carried off hundreds of items.
Bruce Fromong, who testified he has known Simpson since the early 1990s and has worked with him selling and promoting memorabilia, said he was at a Las Vegas hotel room on Sept. 13 expecting to meet an anonymous buyer when Simpson burst into the room with the others and shouted that the items were his.
"O.J. was screaming, 'This is all my s—-. This all belongs to me. You stole this from me. Let's pack up. Let's get out of here,"' Fromong said.
Simpson, 60, and two co-defendants face robbery, kidnapping and other charges. The hearing, scheduled for two days, is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to take them to trial.
Fromong, the first witness called, said the confrontation lasted no more than five or six minutes and ended with the group stuffing hundreds of items into pillowcases and leaving the Palace Station hotel-casino.
Some of the items he had brought, Fromong testified, had nothing to do with Simpson but were lithographs of football great Joe
of lawyers and about a dozen uniformed officers. Simpson, who arrived in a black Hummer, looked stoic as he arrived in dark sunglasses, a gray suit, white shirt and matching tie.
The former football great didn't stop to talk or make eye contact as he made his way into the courthouse and through a metal detector.
During a brief break in the hearing, he stood up to shake hands with his bail bondsman and chat with several members of the courtroom audience.
In Simpson's mind, according to a close friend, the charges are rooted in the former football star being found not guilty in the 1994 slayings of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
"He believes he's being tried for that now," said Tom Scotto, 45, a North Miami Beach, Fla., auto body shop owner.
"He's taking this serious. It is serious," said Scotto, who traveled from Florida with Simpson and sat in a courtroom gallery filled with about 100 spectators. Among them was Simpson's older sister, Mattie Shirley Simpson Baker, 64, of Elk Grove, Calif.
Simpson and co-defendants Clarence "C.J." Stewart and Charles Ehrlich face 12 charges, including kidnapping, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy and coercion. A kidnapping conviction could result in a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole. An armed robbery conviction could mean mandatory prison time.
Outside the courthouse before the hearing began was a small crowd of onlookers who mingled with more than a dozen camera crews and an odd group of hangers-on trying to win some media attention. The latter group included a r said shortly before the hearing began. "There aren't too many times I walk into a courtroom and know I'm going to lose."