Simpson jurors hear meeting tape
When O.J. Simpson entered the cramped hotel room last year where footballs, plaques and photos were arranged on a bed, memorabilia dealer Alfred Beardsley uttered two words: “Oh, no.”
In the next six minutes, Simpson and five associates robbed Beardsley and a fellow collectibles dealer at gunpoint, prosecutors contend. The incident was secretly recorded, and on Friday the tape was played for jurors.
“Think you can steal my [stuff] and sell it?” Simpson yells at the dealers on the tape.
A Simpson cohort identified as Michael McClinton shouts at them: “Get the [expletive] against the wall. . . . Walk your [behind] over there. . . . Stand the [expletive] up before it gets ugly in here.”
Simpson -- who faces a dozen charges, including kidnapping and armed robbery -- maintains that he was trying to get back stolen personal mementos on Sept. 13, 2007, and that he never saw a gun.
On the somewhat muddled recording, guns aren’t mentioned until Simpson and his associates leave the room -- with boxes and pillowcases stuffed with collectibles.
“We were just robbed at gunpoint by O.J. Simpson,” Beardsley says, according to the tape.
Collectibles dealer Thomas Riccio, who arranged the meeting at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino, spent a second day on the witness stand Friday. He testified that he surreptitiously recorded the alleged robbery and several other conversations with Simpson in the days surrounding the incident.
Riccio said he was surprised that Simpson and his associates retrieved the memorabilia at gunpoint.
“This is overkill,” Riccio testified, “big-time overkill. They didn’t need to do it this way. . . . They certainly didn’t need to bring guns.”
Shortly after Simpson left the room, he called Riccio from a cellphone and was told the police were investigating. Riccio said Simpson seemed “depressed” when he learned the dealers were alleging a gun had been involved and insisted on speaking to the lead detective.
“I actually heard him laughing, and I can see the cop laughing too,” Riccio recalled.
In the two days before Simpson was arrested, he repeatedly told Riccio that no gun was present.
“I don’t know why they are talking about a gun. Ain’t nobody had a gun,” Simpson said in one voice-mail message played for jurors.
Riccio said he told Simpson he was wrong.
“There was a gun a few inches from my face, and I saw it. I wasn’t going to lie about it,” he testified.
In one recorded phone conversation between Simpson and Riccio, which was played for jurors, Riccio suggested that Simpson “probably” didn’t see the gun wielded by an associate.
Simpson said he barely knew some of the men who accompanied him and only asked them along because he needed help carrying the memorabilia, according to the recording.
Jurors stared intently at transcripts as the recordings played, but a few moments of levity cracked their sober expressions.
In one recorded phone conversation, for example, someone could be heard whistling the song “If I Only Had a Brain.”
“That was O.J.,” Riccio said. “He does that a lot.”
At the defense table, Simpson chuckled.
Jurors also toured the scene of the alleged crime Friday. The 12 panelists and six alternates were bused to the casino hotel, where they toured Room 1203 in pairs. Simpson did not go, but codefendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart did.
No pair of jurors spent more than 30 seconds examining the room. One female juror measured the distance between the bathroom and a chair in the back of the room with her feet. An alternate touched the top of an armoire where Riccio had hidden his audio recorder.