LAS VEGAS – Kidnapping and robbery charges against O.J. Simpson should be dropped, his defense argued Wednesday after the close of testimony in a preliminary hearing on allegations that the former football star and armed companions stole items from sports memorabilia dealers.
Defense attorney Gabriel Grasso argued to Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joe M. Bonaventure that it was unclear whether the prosecution was contending that the alleged kidnapping was the act of luring the two dealers to a hotel room or the actions that occurred during a confrontation in the room.
Grasso also contended that the kidnapping counts did not meet the requirements of law.
"This is clearly overcharging," Grasso said.
Simpson also had no intent to steal because he only wanted to get back items he reasonably believed were his, Grasso said.
Bonaventure was to decide at the end of the hearing whether Simpson, Clarence "C.J." Stewart and Charles "Charlie" Ehrlich should go to trial on 12 charges, including kidnapping and armed robbery.
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.
Before arguments began, Simpson stood and confirmed that he would not present evidence on his own behalf during the hearing.
Earlier, sports memorabilia dealer Alfred Beardsley, 45, testified that he tried to make clear to an "irritated" O.J. Simpson during the hotel room confrontation that he had not stolen items from the former football star.
Beardsley said he and another dealer, Bruce Fromong, agreed to a hotel room meeting with a memorabilia buyer he only was told would be a Las Vegas businessman
When the hotel room door opened, a group of men including Simpson entered, he said.
"Somebody yelled out, 'Police,"' said Beardsley, who cast furtive glances at Simpson from time to time during his testimony.
"I was ordered to stand up. I was searched for weapons," he said.
Beardsley said one man shoved Fromong into a corner at gunpoint and he saw another gun in the waistband of another man in the group. He said the only man he recognized was Simpson.
Clark County District Attorney David Roger asked Beardsley what Simpson said to him.
"He was just basically a little upset," Beardsley said. "I think he felt violated and gave me a lecture."
Beardsley added later, "I was trying to calm him down because I know that he wanted some answers. I could see it in his face. He wanted an explanation why we were there with his property."
He described Simpson as "just irritated."
"I think he was hurt that his property was there," Beardsley said.
"Did you steal that property?" the prosecutor asked.
"No," the witness said. "I wanted to make clear to him that I did not steal that property."
He said he told Simpson the memorabilia came from a former partner of Fromong, Mike Gilbert.
Beardsley said he was ordered to pack up the memorabilia, which had been laid out on a bed, and that the group left. He then called 911.
In cross-examination, defense attorney Yale Galanter pressed Beardsley on a TV interview in which he said he only saw one gun during the incident, and on whether he had sought to make money off the incident.
Beardsley, who is in custody at the Clark County jail on a California parole violation, testified the violation stemmed from a domestic violence incident.
Michael "Spencer" McClinton testified Tuesday that Simpson asked him to bring guns and told him to use them to intimidate Beardsley and Fromong when the group entered the hotel room.
"He said, `Show them your weapon and look menacing,"' McClinton said.
The district attorney asked McClinton if he was paraphrasing.
"He said that," McClinton replied. "There's no doubt in my mind. He said that."
Minutes later, Simpson lawyer Grasso tried to show that McClinton, 49, changed his story after becoming the third co-defendant to accept a plea deal and agree to testify against Simpson.
In 85 pages of transcript of a voluntary statement he gave police on Oct. 15, Grasso asked, did McClinton ever tell investigators that Simpson told him to bring a gun?
"No," McClinton responded. "I guess I didn't."
Simpson, 60, has maintained that no guns were displayed during the confrontation, that he never asked anyone to bring guns and that he did not know anyone had guns. He has said he intended only to retrieve items that had been 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.
Simpson's golfing buddy Walter "Goldie" Alexander testified Tuesday that Simpson instructed McClinton to draw his weapon before the group entered the room at the Palace Station hotel-casino.
Alexander said he kept a weapon that McClinton gave him tucked into the waistband of his suit, but as soon as he saw McClinton waving his weapon and shouting orders at the memorabilia dealers he realized he was taking part in an armed robbery.
Later, 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?" Galanter asked.
"I told the truth," the witness said glumly.
Charles Cashmore, who also struck a deal with prosecutors, testified against Simpson last week.