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Gaming Guru

Melissa Arseniuk

O.J. Simpson robbery/kidnapping trial begins today

15 September 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- It was one year ago today that O.J. Simpson was arrested and this morning the former football star will reluctantly mark the anniversary from the defendant's seat as his criminal trial gets under way.

He and his co-accused, Clarence "C.J." Stewart, face possible life sentences following the alleged raid of a Palace Station hotel room last year.

While jury selection was completed last week, the trial itself will begin today.

Simpson, 61, and Stewart, 54, are charged with a dozen robbery, weapons and kidnapping-related offences, including two counts of first-degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon, which carries a possible life sentence, and two counts of robbery with use of a deadly weapon, which requires a minimum two to 15-year jail term if convicted.

They are also charged with two counts of coercion with use of a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Simpson was arrested at the Palms hotel, where he was staying at the time, two days after the alleged incident took place. Stewart, who lives in North Las Vegas, surrendered to police on Sept. 17.

Both men have plead not guilty to all counts.

The charges Simpson and Stewart now face stem from a run-in with two memorabilia dealers, Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong, last year. Prosecutors allege on Sept. 13, 2007, Simpson and Stewart, along with four others, stole a range of merchandise from a Palace Station hotel room.

Beardsley and Fromong told investigators that the items taken – plaques, Simpson-autographed footballs, 30 to 50 Joe Montana lithographs, 24 baseballs autographed by MLB legends Pete Rose and Duke Schneider, and a cell phone – were valued at $80,000 to $100,000.

While Simpson has acknowledged his posse removed several items from the room, he has maintained that the objects belonged to him and were rightfully his to take. He claims the items were family heirlooms, including personal photos and the suit he wore in on the day he was acquitted in 1995 of the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Robert Goldman.

Simpson maintains that he was not aware any weapons were during the alleged robbery.

The men who wielded semiautomatic handguns during the incident, Walter Alexander and Michael McClinton, agreed to testify against the accused in exchange for lesser charges, along with two others who were unarmed during the reconnaissance entourage, Charles Ehrlich and Charles Cashmore.

The four men are expected to take the stand in the coming weeks, along Fromong, Beardsley and a range of others.

A third memorabilia dealer, Thomas Riccio, is also anticipated to take the stand. He is the one who arranged the meeting between Simpson and Beardsley and Fromong after he contacted the memorabilia dealers saying he had a potential buyer for the items.

Riccio was the one who rented the hotel room where the events took place and also produced what he and prosecutors say is an audio recording of the run-in. Riccio sold the tape to the gossip Web site TMZ soon after the event took place.

Chief Deputy District Attorney, Christopher Owens, and District Attorney, David Roger, have submitted a list of nearly 80 witnesses that they may call upon during the trial, though it is expected only 25 will be called to testify.

Simpson's defense attorneys, Yale Galanter and Gabriel Grasso, along with Stewart's lawyers, Robert Lucherini and Charles D. Jones, have indicated they will call about 10 others to the witness stand.

The trial's nine-woman, three-man, predominately white jury was selected last week. The only black jurors, one man and one woman, sit on the six-person panel of alternates.

Judge Jackie Glass will preside over proceedings, which are expected to last four to five weeks.