O.J. Simpson tells police he was reclaiming sports memorabilia

Published: Sep. 16, 2007 at 7:36 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2007 at 12:11 PM CDT
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LAS VEGAS (AP) - An apparent audiotape of O.J. Simpson's standoff with men he accused of stealing his memorabilia begins with the ex-NFL star demanding, "Don't let nobody out this room. ... Think you can steal my (expletive) and sell it?"

Simpson was arrested Sunday and booked at a county jail on charges connected with what police described as a robbery at a Las Vegas hotel.

In an audiotape released Monday by the celebrity news Web site TMZ.com, Simpson is heard shouting questions while other men shout orders to the men in the room.

TMZ said the recording was made on a handheld recorder belonging to Thomas Riccio, co-owner of the auction house Universal Rarities. Riccio did not immediately return a call for comment Monday.

Simpson has said Riccio called him several weeks ago to say some collectors were selling some of his items. Riccio set up a meeting with collectors under the guise that he had a private collector interested in buying Simpson's items.

Riccio told the site he believed Simpson was planning to confront Alfred Beardsley, who was allegedly planning to auction off Simpson memorabilia. The site said the objects of Simpson anger were Beardsley and another collector, Bruce Fromong.

Simpson he was accompanied by men he met at a wedding cocktail party, and they took the collectibles. Fromong said Simpson was the last of the men to enter the hotel room.

"O.J. was the last person I was expecting to see and when I saw him I was just thinking, 'O.J., how can you be this stupid?"' Fromong told CBS's "The Early Show."

He said Simpson left him a voice mail message after the alleged robbery telling him some of Fromong's things were "mixed up" with his and asking how he could give them back.

"It's like a bad dream," said Beardsley. "I'm sad that O.J. is in custody."

Simpson said the dispute was merely a confrontation with no guns. He said autographed sports collectibles, his Hall of Fame certificate, a photograph with former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and video from his first wedding were all his, and that they were stolen from him and were about to be fenced by unethical collectors.

Police said they were not sure who owned the memorabilia. But they say the manner in which the goods were taken was under investigation.

"Whether or not the property belonged to Mr. Simpson or not is still in debate," Lt. Clint Nichols said Sunday. "Having said that, the manner in which this property was taken, we have a responsibility to look into that, irregardless of who the property belonged to."

After being whisked away in handcuffs, Simpson was booked Sunday night on two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and conspiracy to commit a crime and burglary with a firearm, police said.

The district attorney said he expected Simpson to ultimately be charged with seven felonies and one gross misdemeanor.

If convicted of the booking charges, Simpson would face up to 30 years in state prison on each robbery count alone.

A judge ordered Simpson be held without bail, Sgt. John Loretto said. A court date was set for Thursday.

Simpson attorney Yale Galanter told The Associated Press late Sunday that he would fight the charges vigorously.

"We believe it is an extremely defensible case based on conflicting witness statements, flip-flopping by witnesses and witnesses making deals with the government to flip," Galanter said.

Beardsley said he blames the incident on Riccio, who he claims told Simpson that his property was in the room in Las Vegas.

"If they don't charge Riccio I will be very upset. That guy lied to O.J. and got him all pumped up," he said.

Beardsley said the people that should be blamed are Riccio and Mike Gilbert, the former Simpson agent who he alleged stole memorabilia from Simpson.

At one point on the tape, after Simpson yells, "Think you can steal my (expletive)?" an unidentified voice responds, "Mike took it."

"I know (expletive) Mike took it," Simpson says.

At least one man can be heard ordering others around the room, saying, "You, against the (expletive) wall.

Simpson, 60, told The Associated Press that he did not call the police to help reclaim the items because he has found the police unresponsive to him ever since his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman were slain in 1994.

"The police, since my trouble, have not worked out for me," he said, noting that whenever he has called the police "It just becomes a story about O.J."

Police did not allege that Simpson carried a weapon in the incident.

"We don't have any information to lead us to believe he was armed even based on those charges," Nichols said.

Police said they seized two firearms involved in the robbery along with sports memorabilia, mostly signed by Simpson. They also said they recovered collectible baseballs and Joe Montana cleats at private residences early Sunday after serving three search warrants.

Walter Alexander, 46, of Mesa, Ariz., was arrested Saturday night on two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary with a deadly weapon. Alexander, who was described as one of Simpson's golfing buddies, was released without bail Saturday night.

"Walter was one of the two subjects who had a gun," Dillon said.

Robert Dennis Rentzer, a Los Angeles lawyer representing Alexander, said he was able to arrange his client's release from custody, but wasn't familiar with the allegations.

Police are seeking four other men: Las Vegas residents Clarence Stewart, 53, and Michael McClinton, 49; Tom Scotto, of unknown age and hometown, and another man who was not identified.

Simpson, a Heisman Trophy winner and actor, lives near Miami and has been a tabloid staple since his ex-wife and Goldman were killed. Simpson was acquitted of murder charges, but a jury later held him liable for the killings in a wrongful death civil suit. He was ordered to pay $33.5 million.

Goldman's father, Fred Goldman, welcomed the possibility that Simpson could go to prison.       "How wonderful," he told "The Early Show."

"A lot of years too late, however. I would have much preferred him found guilty of Ron and Nicole's death and then put either to death or in jail then. But frankly to see him ultimately or potentially go to jail - that's great."

Simpson's arrest came just days after the Goldman family published a book that Simpson had written under the title, "If I Did It" about how he would have committed the killings of his ex-wife and Goldman had he actually done it.

After a deal for Simpson to publish it fell through, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded the book's rights to the Goldman family, who retitled it "If I Did It: The Confessions of the Killer." During the weekend, the book was the hottest seller in the country, hitting No. 1 on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)