LAS VEGAS – O.J. Simpson's one-time golfing pal glared at him across a courtroom Tuesday and said the former football star wanted him to bring "heat" to a confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers in a hotel room.
Minutes later, Simpson's lawyer accused the friend, Walter Alexander, of being a liar, and the two wound up in a shouting match in the third day of a preliminary hearing in the armed robbery case.
Justice of the Peace Joe M. Bonaventure will decide after the hearing whether there is enough evidence for Simpson and two other men to stand trial.
Alexander's testimony was the strongest for prosecutors so far. He and Michael McClinton, who also testified against Simpson Tuesday, struck deals with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to lesser charges, as did Charles Cashmore, who testified last week.
"After he asked me if I could watch his back, he leaned forward and it was kind of like, 'Hey, do you think you can get some heat?"' Alexander said. "'Just in case things go wrong, can you bring some heat?"'
Simpson, 60, has maintained in interviews and through his lawyers that he never saw any guns or asked anyone to bring them to the hotel room. Wearing dark glasses and a dark suit with a white shirt and white handkerchief in the breast pocket, he sometimes smiled but frequently shook his head as Alexander testified.
Simpson has said he intended only to retrieve items that were stolen from him by a former agent, including the suit he wore the day he was acquitted of murder in 1995 in the slayings of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
Alexander depicted Simpson as the mastermind of the plan to recover his possessions by setting up a sting operation in which the two dealers would think they were meeting with a potential buyer. The three were in town for a mutual friend's wedding Sept. 13.
McClinton volunteered to supply guns and Simpson said they probably would be needed only to show dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley "we mean business," Alexander said.
Alexander said he accepted a .22-caliber pistol from McClinton that he tucked into his waistband while McClinton strapped on a shoulder holster containing a .45.
But when he saw McClinton waving the gun inside the hotel room and the others in Simpson's party scooping up hundreds of items that had been laid out on a bed, Alexander said he thought to himself, "Man, you're in trouble."
The dealers testified earlier that the group not only took Simpson items but also lithographs of football great Joe Montana and memorabilia signed by baseball stars Duke Snider and Pete Rose.
Alexander said Simpson later joked about the encounter and predicted the episode would "be on every major network tomorrow."
"He said, 'Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas but not if you're O.J. Simpson," Alexander said.
Later, defense attorney Yale Galanter elicited from Alexander that he offered at one point to slant his testimony in Simpson's favor if he was paid.
"I really felt that he was set up," Alexander said. "So I felt like I could lean toward that angle rather than telling the exact truth."
Alexander said he was never paid.
"So truth got left at the door because your testimony is for sale?" asked Galanter.
"I told the truth," the witness said glumly.
Galanter accused Alexander of being angry with Simpson and trying to get even by lying in his testimony. The defense lawyer's cross-examination was hostile from the beginning, and Galanter even asked if Alexander had ever been a pimp.
"Have you ever sold flesh?" asked Galanter.
"No," Alexander replied.
After Galanter concluded, lawyers for co-defendants Charles Ehrlich and Clarence "C.J." Stewart also cross-examined the witness and noted that none of the defendants sitting in court carried any weapons during the confrontation but that two of those who received plea bargain deals from prosecutors had.
Simpson, Stewart and Ehrlich face 12 criminal charges. A conviction on the kidnapping count could result in a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole. An armed robbery conviction could mean mandatory prison time.