LAS VEGAS – Testimony resumed Monday in the O.J. Simpson trial, with the collectibles broker who set up the ill-fated meeting between Simpson and two memorabilia peddlers back on the witness stand testifying about recordings he made before, during and after the event.
Simpson smiled and waved to the few people who waited to snap photos of his arrival at the Regional Justice Center for the third week of a trial that could send the former football star and a co-defendant, Clarence "C.J." Stewart, to prison. The number of onlookers has thinned since jury selection began Sept. 8 and testimony began Sept. 15.
In court, under questioning from prosecutor Chris Owens, Thomas Riccio, the middleman who arranged the Sept. 13, 2007, meeting, described a recorded telephone conversation several days after the confrontation in which he talked with Simpson about whether Simpson saw a gun in the room.
"I did see a gun, but I know he says he didn't see it," Riccio testified Monday. "I don't know for sure what he saw and didn't."
Simpson has said he didn't ask anyone to bring guns to the confrontation with sports memorabilia dealers Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong, and that he didn't know anyone in the room was armed. Stewart maintains he relied on Simpson's assurances that he was only going to recover some personal property.
Riccio testified last week that a plan he and Simpson hatched to recover personal belongings allegedly stolen by Simpson's former agent went awry when one of five men who barged into the room with Simpson pulled out a gun and began barking orders like a police officer.
"Everything was perfect until the gun came out," Riccio testified.
Trial is scheduled to continue for up to four more weeks for Simpson and Stewart, who have pleaded not guilty to charges that include kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy.
On Friday, Riccio said he hid a digital recorder atop an armoire, out of sight of police investigators and crime scene analysts who missed it when they combed the room for evidence after the alleged armed robbery.
Owens and Clark County District Attorney David Roger have encountered rough patches in their case, which they began a week ago when Owens hit the "play" button on one of Riccio's recordings.
Two FBI forensic audio experts testified they couldn't say whether the recording had been edited or tampered with. Riccio, who sold excerpts to an Internet gossip site eight days before turning the recordings over to police, identified several instances in which transcripts prepared by detectives misidentified or misquoted speakers.
The recording also captured a police employee talking about Simpson's 1995 murder acquittal and the new chance to "get him."
Prosecutors expect testimony from the four men who accompanied Simpson and Stewart to the hotel room to bolster their case. Each man took a deal to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for a promise to testify.
But each will face pointed cross-examination from defense lawyers who confronted Fromong with several contradictions in his testimony.
Minutes after Fromong testified that he had no desire to profit from the Simpson case, defense lawyer Gabriel Grasso played a recording of Fromong saying he'd called a celebrity television show and offered to sell his story for "big money."
The other alleged victim, Alfred Beardsley, has been transferred from a California prison to the Clark County jail, and is due to testify Tuesday, his lawyer said. Beardsley is serving time on a parole violation.Click here for ON THE SCENE blog.