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Simpson jurors hear secretly recorded tapes

Times Staff Writers

Jurors on Thursday heard a recording in which a man prosecutors identified as O.J. Simpson spoke about confronting a pair of sports memorabilia dealers and retrieving mementos that the former NFL star said were stolen from him.

“I’m gonna show up with a bunch of the boys and take the [stuff] back,” said the man prosecutors contend is Simpson.

Prosecutors said the conversation was a precursor to Simpson and five associates robbing the memorabilia dealers at gunpoint. Simpson, 61, is charged with a dozen crimes including kidnapping, which carries a potential life sentence.

The somewhat garbled conversation at the Palms hotel pool was one of many secretly taped by auctioneer Thomas Riccio on Sept. 13, 2007. Prosecutors said Simpson is heard explaining how a friend would pose as a “big O.J. fan” looking to buy Simpson memorabilia.

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Prosecutors played the jury a second recording, made in Simpson’s Palms room after he returned from the pool, in which Simpson said, “I gotta be at my intimidating best.”

Simpson, a Heisman Trophy winner and member of the NFL Hall of Fame, said he was simply trying to get back stolen mementos, including pictures of his children and his late parents, in the confrontation at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino.

“It’s my stuff,” Simpson appears to say on the first recording. “They stole it.”

Riccio testified Thursday that a memorabilia dealer named Al Beardsley contacted him about selling pictures and other things taken from Simpson’s trophy room. In exchange for Riccio’s help, Simpson agreed to sign 200 copies of the book “If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer.”

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The book is a “hypothetical confessional” of how Simpson might have killed his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson was acquitted of their murders in 1995, but a civil jury found him liable for the deaths two years later. Simpson has paid little of the $33.5-million judgment.

Riccio, who brokered the meeting with Beardsley, testified that Simpson didn’t want to carry out his plan in California because the Goldmans might seize his mementos. Simpson nicknamed the family “the gold diggers,” Riccio said.

Riccio -- a wisecracking witness whose testimony often made Simpson laugh -- said he had lost business because of his ties to the football legend. Among other moneymaking ventures, he has written a book called “Busted!” about Simpson’s arrest in Las Vegas. (The back cover advertises it as “Why I Did It.”) Defense lawyers had a copy marked with Post-it notes.

Earlier, defense lawyers intensely questioned a detective about a recording made when Riccio left a digital device running as crime scene analysts collected evidence in the Palace Station hotel room.

An investigator was caught on tape laughing and saying that Las Vegas police “got” Simpson when authorities in California had failed -- an apparent reference to the former NFL star’s acquittal in Los Angeles. Simpson’s lawyers in the murder case had spotlighted the potential bias of investigators, suggesting they planted evidence.

Under questioning by a Simpson attorney, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Det. Andy Caldwell read part of a transcript of an audiotape in which colleagues discussed the case, unaware that they were being recorded.

“This is great. John said uh, yeah -- he is like California can’t get him. . . . Now we’ll be like . . . got him,” Caldwell read.

The transcript indicated portions of the conversation were inaudible.

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Caldwell said he did not know what the speaker, whom he identified only as “Perkins,” meant or who “John” was.

The revelations of the taped comments came as Simpson’s lawyers told the judge that part of their defense was that police ignored any evidence that did not point to Simpson.

“When the police found out it was O.J. Simpson involved in this case, you basically had the prosecutorial equivalent of a feeding frenzy,” said defense attorney Gabriel Grasso.

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ashley.powers@latimes.com

harriet.ryan@latimes.com


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