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Man pleads not guilty in connection with '94 theft of O.J. Simpson's Heisman from USC

Man pleads not guilty in connection with '94 theft of O.J. Simpson's Heisman from USC
O.J. Simpson's personal Heisman Trophy, seen in 1999, was the centerpiece at a court-ordered auction at Butterfield and Butterfield that year. USC's trophy was stolen in 1994. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

An Apple Valley man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to trying to sell O.J. Simpson's 1968 Heisman Trophy after it was stolen from a display case at USC more than 20 years ago.

Lewis Eugene Starks Jr., 56, appeared in court Wednesday to answer to one count of receiving stolen property, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

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Starks was arrested Monday after a lengthy investigation. The trophy has been recovered.

Prosecutors accused Starks of trying to sell the trophy late last year, even though it was known to be stolen.

The trophy, the crowning individual award in college football, was USC's copy of the statue and was on display in the athletic department when it was stolen in July 1994.

Both the Heisman winner and his university receive copies of the trophy. Simpson reportedly later sold his own copy at auction to help pay court costs.

An anonymous East Coast collector bought the trophy for $230,000, plus commission.

USC's statue was recovered Dec. 16 after detectives went to court seeking a search warrant for phone records for an unnamed person who they said was connected to the theft.

Police announced the recovery of the trophy in January, but didn't arrest anyone in connection with the decades-old theft until this week.

On July 28, 1994, a USC custodian noticed that Simpson's Heisman and No. 32 football jersey were missing from a display cases in the lobby of the school's athletic department building. Investigators found that screws holding the covers of the cases in place had been unscrewed.

Police believed two thieves were responsible.

Simpson had been arrested the previous month in connection with the slaying of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Lyle Goldman. He was acquitted of murder charges, but was found liable in a later civil trial.

After the trophy was stolen, USC obtained a replica Heisman to stand in its place.

For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA.

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