NV vs. Simpson – Opening Statements
Posted by thedarwinexception on September 15, 2008
Opening statements were given today in the sequel to the OJ Simpson trial, or OJ 2. This time OJ again faces charges that could incarcerate him for the rest of his life – although this time there were no dead bodies left behind, just a stolen pair of sunglasses, a baseball cap knocked to the ground and two people deprived of the right to use their cell phones.
Court opened with the clerk reading off the laundry list of charges leveled against OJ and his co-defendant Clarence Stuart – who has to be the unluckiest man in the world. If the person joining him at the defense table was anyone other than OJ Simpson, he might have walked away from an incident such as this with nothing more than a fine and reprimand. But when a prosecutor has the chance to prosecute OJ Simpson, and you were there, and you don’t have testimony that would get you immunity or a deal, well then, you’re sitting there next to OJ. I feel bad for the guy. He’ll be a footnote in the annals of history forever.
The judge relates to the jury some of the introductory information – things like “No juror may declare to a fellow juror any personal knowledge or fact they may have about the case or the parties.” So if you happen to know that DA Roger is a party animal – and you saw him drunk one time at a local club, well, you can’t relay that information to the rest of the jury. “Attorneys for both sides are not permitted to talk to you.” So if you happen to be in an elevator with one of the attorneys and he doesn’t acknowledge you when you say “HI!”, don’t take it personally. “You not to visit the scene of any of the acts or occurrences.” So don’t go walking around the Palace Station Hotel. “You are not allowed to conduct any independent research.” No googling Judge Glass!
The clerk of the court, Sandra, then reads off the list of charges and the state’s theories behind each charge. Some of them are quite a stretch. For instance, “Coercion with the use of a deadly weapon.” Do you know what the state’s theory is behind this charge? That OJ and his “co conspirators” prevented Bruce Fromong from using his cell phone – oh and there was a gun in the room at the time. So, charge OJ and Stuart with “Coercion with a deadly weapon.” I think that’s a stretch.
Some of the charges sounded even sillier when the clerk was actually reading them out loud – like “Robbery with the use of a deadly weapon ” . It sounded quite trivial when the clerk expanded on the charge by saying “The defendants Orenthal James Simpson and Clarence Stuart did deprive the victim of his baseball cap and or sunglasses”. It kind of makes one stop and pause and wonder exactly what everyone is doing there. Until you look over at the defendant’s table and realize, well, you know, it *is* OJ Simpson, and if the way we get his ass behind bars where he belongs for killing Ron and Nicole is to charge him with stealing a baseball cap and or sunglasses, well, by God, that’s what we’ll do.
If the jury actually LISTENS to the judge and the instruction that the state has to prove each essential element of the crime, then this is a non starter for the state with regards to OJ and even more with regards to Stuart. The state will have to prove that the defendants in the case were “counseling and coercing with each other”, which will be a difficult task, since most of the witnesses and people in the room that night didn’t even know each other and weren’t aware that the others were going to be there or what their role would be. There was no “counseling and coercing”. For a conspiracy, there wasn’t much conspiring to be had.
But, the charges are read and after about 10 minutes the clerk has all 13 charges and their theories over with and the judge informs the jury that yeah, the lawyers will be asking questions, but that the jury, too, can ask questions. They must be submitted on a sheet of paper from their notebook, they must include their seat number on the piece of paper, and the question must be one that is legal and proper and relates to facts already testified to. The question must also be addressed to the witness, not the judge or the lawyers. The judge will go over the question with the lawyers and if the question is legal and proper, she will ask the witness the submitted question. I love that the jury can ask questions. I am *So* moving to Nevada so I can be a juror there.
Prosecutor Chris Owens makes the opening statement for the State. He begins with the audio recording surreptitiously made by Thomas Riccio of the men entering his hotel room. OJ Simpson’s voice can be heard throughout the courtroom screaming :”We aren’t letting any asses out of here!” and “Stand the fuck up before it gets ugly in here!” Owens tells the jury that they will hear the rest of the tape during the trial, and that they will hear the threats, force and demands made by the defendants towards the victims in this case.
Owens then quotes Nathaniel Hawthorne, saying Hawthorne once said that “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which one is true.” Owens tells the jury that this is the case with OJ Simpson that he is accustomed to showing one face to the public and another face to himself, and that this trial would ultimately expose the jury to “the true face” of OJ Simpson. Not the one he tries to put out to the world, but his true face.
Owens then explores the long and checkered history of the property that OJ robbed in the hotel room, linking it back to a man named Michael Gilbert, and tying it all to the judgment Fred Goldman received in his civil suit against OJ. Michael Gilbert and Fred Goldman, Owens said, are the two people who OJ has a longstanding grudge against, and it was from both of these individuals that OJ gained his motivation.
Hours before the robbery, OJ spoke on one of the seemingly dozens of hidden tape recorders in this case and talked about his satisfaction on finally getting the “turnaround” on Michael Gilbert. “This guy fucked me from day one” he is heard to say. And he expresses the hope that Gilbert himself is in the room.
Gilbert is the former manager of Simpson, and back in 1996, when Fred Goldman first received his civil judgment against OJ, Gilbert was OJ’s friend and associate. When the sheriff’s office was coming to OJ’s house to recover property in order to satisfy the Goldman’s judgment, OJ and Gilbert had advance notice of their arrival. This prompted OJ and his associates to secret away some of OJ’s property, in order to avoid having it seized. Much of the stuff went to Gilbert, who was holding it for OJ.
As the years passed, many of the friends and associates of OJ’s who had been among those holding this property and secreting it away became disenchanted with OJ and had fallings out with him. And the ownership of the things they were holding came into question. Many of the items were given away, sold, or otherwise disposed of, and according to the State, it’s this property that years later came to be in the hotel room in Las Vegas.
A few months before this incident in Las Vegas, there were interrogatories that OJ Simpson had to fill out under order of the court in California. This was all related back to the civil judgment against OJ by the Goldman’s. On these interrogatories, under oath, OJ was asked if he had any outstanding property or goods and where this property might be if he had it. He was also asked if any of his agents were holding property that belonged to him. OJ’s response to the question about “names of agents holding property” was an objection – that the question was too burdensome for him to answer – and his response to “do you have any poverty in trust” was that he did have some furniture and clothing which were of no monetary value. To these interrogatories OJ never mentioned the property that was being held by Mike Gilbert, among others. The reason is that he knew that if he divulged that these people had this property, that it would be seized by the courts. And OJ made statements saying basically that on the tapes that you will hear: “and I knew to be honest with you – I knew the Goldman’s would get it so I told those guys do whatever you want with it”.
The State alleges that this is the property OJ was telling Riccio “we’re gonna get it all back.” And Owens classifies this bravado as “Arrogance coupled with hypocrisy.” OJ feels ripped off by people – including Mike Gilbert and Fred Goldman – and that fuels his motivation to recover all of these items. Simpson tells the courts he doesn’t have any property – then tells Riccio he’s going to get the property back. But there’s one hitch – the order is in place in California – anything OJ recovers there belongs to the state – so, he decides the deal has to be done elsewhere. And that’s why they went to Nevada.
And Bruce Fromong just happens to live in Nevada. The same place OJ is going to be on the weekend of the 13th of September, when his good friend Scotto is getting married.
And Fromong is an old associate of both OJ’s and Mike Gilbert’s.
And that’s where we run into Alfred Beardsley – small time hustler.
Alfred Beardsley contacts Thomas Riccio in August of 2007 telling him that he has a guy (Fromong) who is in possession of a bunch of OJ stuff. Personal stuff, like ties OJ wore during the California trial and pictures and footballs and presentation plaques – real good stuff. Thomas Riccio – who owns an auction house and sometimes deals in stuff like this, gets a little worried, thinking “Damn, this sounds like *personal* items! I wonder if this stuff is really supposed to be on the open market?” And he calls his acquaintance OJ Simpson, who he has dealt with in the past on other deals, and says to OJ “Look, I got this guy telling me he has some of your shit!”
OJ immediately recognizes the items as ones that were taken years before and says to Riccio “Look, I want this stuff back – you set it up. How can I get my hands on this stuff?”
They start talking scenarios and hypothetically and how they could perform a “sting” with a a phony buyer – they even talk about surprising the sellers – or filming them and selling the tape to a reality show. Lot sof different ideas were bandied about. Riccio starts to realize the gravity of the situation and calls the FBI – he explains to them “Look, we have these guys who are in possession of some illegally obtained merchandise of OJ Simpson’s – how can we get it back – will you help us?” And the FBI – realizing that there are property rights questions involved because of the civil judgment, tell Thomas Riccio not to get involved.
But Riccio, for reasons of his own, mostly financial, does get involved and he tells OJ that if OJ will sign 200 copies of his new book “If I Did It” for Riccio, that Riccio will help him recover his stuff.
In August Alfred Beardsley sends a fax to Riccio outlining the exact items he has. Beardsley doesn’t know that Riccio is passing along this information to OJ Simpson.
Riccio and Beardsley had a long and storied past together – Beardsley had kind of screwed Riccio over in years past and Fromong didn’t like Beardsley either, thinking he was a “hanger on”. Because of his associations with Beardsley in the past and because of past associations with OJ and wanting to document all of this, Riccio had a tape recorder and he taped most of his conversations with OJ – just to get the details of his side of the deal they were making on tape.
Finally they pin down that the seller is in Nevada and Oj, too, will be in Nevada for a wedding the weekend of September 13th, so they plan for the “sting” to take place that day. This moved the date of the deal up a bit from the original planned date.
Riccio arrives in Nevada on the 12th of September, and the other parties are arriving in Vegas for the wedding. Riccio is running around town trying to find a place he can buy the 200 copies of the OJ book :”If I Did It” so he can get OJ to sign them, as per their deal. He is unsuccessful in finding the book. Riccio checks into the Palace Station Hotel, room 213, and he also bought a new recording device and tested it out. By the time the incident is over he will have taped 7 separate conversations and incidents. Both at the Palms and the Palace Station Hotel, and two telephone conversations. The tape recorder and the recordings will eventually be sent to the FBI for enhancement.
From these recordings, a lot of what happened that day and the next, and what was known and to whom it was known, can be derived. From the conversation that Riccio taped poolside at the Palms Hotel later that day we have OJ discussing what’s going top go down, and how Charles Ehrlich, an associate of OJ’s would be portraying the buyer. Some of the individuals were discussing how they want the sellers in the room where they can control them – OJ is also heard discussing how he doesn’t anticipate any trouble because the victims will surely not call the police – they know the items are stolen, “these items are not supposed to exist!” and they will be afraid to call the police.
The conspirators also discuss at poolside where all this will take place – and they discuss that they don’t want to have to carry all this massive amount of stuff too far. And they need big cars – and more people. Stuart contacts his friends Alexander and Cashmore. And then contacts Clinton and Ehrlich. .
Riccio, meanwhile, is still anxious to get the details of his deal with OJ on tape, so he goes with OJ to OJ’s room at the Palms to discuss their deal. McClinton and Alexander show up and are introduced to OJ. Riccio leaves so that OJ can talk with them about what the plans are.
Right on schedule Bruce Fromong shows up at the Palace Station Hotel at 6 pm and meets Thomas Riccio for the first time. Beardsley is already there waiting for him in the bar, and Fromong calls Beardsley to ask where he’s at. Fromong and Riccio go to the bar to get Beardsley and then go back to Fromong’s truck to see what Fromong has brought with him. Riccio’s first words are “Is this all there is?”
Fromong, a little wary, at first resists Riccio’s plan to bring the stuff to the room, but eventually relents and they get a bellman to load the stuff onto a cart and bring it all to Riccio’s room. They spread the stuff out on the bed, Riccio takes pictures of it with his cell phone and they wait for the buyers.
But OJ is delayed. He is back at the Palms waiting for Alexander and Clinton who have gone back home to get their guns. They also decide that they need a recording device and they stop to buy one and they are late getting back to the Palms.
Finally, they arrive at the Palms and they all go over to the Palace Station Hotel. Simpson tells them to “look menacing”. He instructs Alexander and Clinton to make their guns visible, but not to necessarily brandish them. They are met in the lobby by Riccio who takes them to his room, where he opens the door with his key. The group enters the room. forces the occupants against the wall, frisk them and one of the guns comes out. Riccio was surprised to see the gun – he wasn’t expecting that. He was panicked. He didn’t anticipate force or violence. The group was in the hotel room for 6 minutes. They load up the property in pillowcases and boxes and leave the room with it. They head back to the Palms Hotel where they split the property.
Despite OJ’s prediction, Beardsley does call the police. And the first thing the police do when they hear that OJ Simpson is involved in a robbery at gunpoint is verify this information with the video surveillance cameras that are stationed along every corridor in the Palace Station Hotel. They know OJ was involved but don’t know who the other men are.
On September 14th the police receive a tip that one of the men they are looking for – Alexander – is leaving the state on a plane. The police arrest him at the airport and he is taken into custody. On the 16th they locate and identify Clinton and Stuart – and they also recover some of the stolen property and firearms. On the 17th a warrant is executed at a law office and some more of the stolen property is recovered.
Alexander – the first one arrested – is cooperating with the police. But then he has second thoughts. He tries to cut a side deal with Stuart and Simpson. He tells them, from jail, in a recorded phone conversation, that he could be convinced to stay on “their side” and testify for them – if they give him money. This call is turned over to the DA’s office.
On the following Friday – almost a week after the robbery – the recording device that Riccio had placed in his hotel room to tape the incident is made known to the police – because Riccio, instead of handing it over to the authorities – has brokered a deal with TMZ and the tape is being played over the airwaves. Riccio refuses to give the original recording or the recording device to the police until he is granted immunity.
Owens ends his opening statement with a little analogy to all the people in this case. Owens says that this case has more recordings in it than any case ever – McClinton had a recorder, Riccio had a recorder – the hotel even had recording s and videos. And that most of the people in this case are in it for the money, for the fame or for the book deals. He tells the jury that only THEY will be able to write the final chapter of these books.
And with that the state’s opening statement is concluded.
The defense for Charles Stuart jumps up at the conclusion of the state’s opening statement to again argue that since Simpson’s motivation in this case has to do with the California case, and since Stuart has no part of that, this this is all prejudicial to Stuart and the cases should be severed. Motion denied.
Yale Gallanter, OJ’s long suffering lawyer is up next for the defense.
Gallanter tells the jury that this case is NOT about what occurred in California, it’s not about Fred Goldman, it’s about what happened in Las Vegas and whether or not any crimes were committed there. It’s not a smear campaign against OJ Simpson – and it’s certainly not about writing a book – or this jury writing the last chapter in OJ’s life. This is about whether or not the government can prove what they have charged OJ Simpson with – that whole long list of charges that took like 20 minutes to read. And although there were 20 minutes worth of charges – in the state’s opening statement they didn’t mention one of them – there was a lot of talk about OJ’s past troubles – but not a mention of what happened in Las Vegas.
Mr. Owens made light of the fact that people like Fromong, Riccio and Beardsley are deal makers – but they are more than deal makers – they are hustlers. From the minute this event was conceived of until today and tomorrow and during this trial – to these people it’s all about the amount of money these individuals are trying to make off the back of OJ Simpson.
This “deal making” isn’t about how they make their living – they are using this event to get their more than 15 minutes of fame. You the jury will evaluate these witnesses and you’ll get some specific instructions on how to evaluate them and their credibility. There are witnesses in this case who have already taken the stand and sworn to tell the truth and they have said that they would sell their testimony, slant the truth for money and try to get paid.
The truth is that this entire event is recorded – in one way or another. There won’t be a lot of “he said she said” – it’s more what’s the intent, what’s behind the words. There are two things in a criminal case that have to be determined. The first is “Who done it?” We know who the players are in this case – “Who done it?” Is not in dispute. They are on video and they are recorded. The second thing to be determined in a criminal case is “What happened?” Even the “what happened?” is not in dispute in this case. But the intent of what happened is in dispute – the evidence will show that when these people went to the Palace Station that none of them believed, anticipated, or intended to commit a crime or break any law in any fashion. The way you know that they had no intent to break any laws is that the individual that started this event is Tom Riccio and he’ll come in here and you’ll hear what his motivation was and what he was telling OJ and why he did what he did. When Riccio and OJ discovered that stolen personal mementos – items taken off the wall from OJ’s home were in the possession of somebody they wanted to do nothing more than recover these items. It wasn’t a robbery – it was a recovery. There was no intent to commit a crime.
Gallanter then goes on to explain to the jury the difference between “memorabilia” – stuff available commercially in shops or at trade shows and mass produced items – and “personal items” – one of a kind, sentimental value items. Gallanter says that this case is not about memorabilia as everyone says – it’s about personal, sentimental items. Items that would mean nothing to anyone in the world except for OJ.
Now how do we know the difference between intent to commit a robbery or intent to recover personal items? We know the intent because Riccio calls the FBI and he says “Listen, I know guys who have stolen items of OJ Simpson’s – help us.” But the FBI slams the door saying “we’re not interested”. They don’t care. A question for you jurors is this – how many people who were going to commit a crime give the FBI a heads up? And this wasn’t just a quick phone call tot eh FBI – they went and had a meeting face to face and begged for help. Did they stop at that? No – Riccio went to local law enforcement in California – and said the same thing as he said to FBI. “I know of some guys who have stolen property of OJ Simpson’s – help us recover it.” They, too, said they weren’t interested.
And despite what the state would have you believe – this isn’t property that is in dispute – this property is not subject to the turnover orders – these are pictures that were stolen from a warehouse that OJ”s mother had while she was alive. These are personal pictures of OJ’s children and his parents – that’s the property OJ went to the hotel room to recover. You can think what you want about OJ – or his past – but what you are going to see in this courtroom is not about breaking the law but about recovering personal mementos – and witness after witness will testify to having seen these items on the walls of OJ’s house.
So Riccio arranges that the property will end up in a room at the Palace Station hotel. OJ was told this property was voluminous – thousands and thousands of items – boxes and boxes of pictures, hundreds of his presentation balls and plaques. Trophies. So he gathers up these people – he tells them “I’m going to need help carrying this stuff”. Really, ladies and gentlemen, how many people commit a robbery and use a bellman? and how many people do that in Las Vegas – where your picture is taken 81 times a minute? OJ is familiar with Las Vegas – he knows that the hotels have cameras in the hallways – he knew he was being recorded. These are not the actions of someone who wants to commit a crime.
You will also hear, in the Palms Poolside tape, that OJ was introducing Riccio to everyone there as :the guy who is going to help me get my stuff back.” Who is going to commit a crime and discuss it with everyone you see? This was not hidden, this was not something that they were trying to cover up or conspire secretly about.
You will learn that this idea was conceived by Tom Riccio – he had a motive to make it happen and he had a strong financial motive. The State touched on the fact that he didn’t turn over the tapes he had made for 5 or 6 days. The reason he didn’t turn over the tape for 5 or 6 days tells you a lot about his motivations – he wasn’t interested in the truth being known – he was most concerned with selling the tape to TMZ – and it wasn’t like he was selling this tape for $100 – he sold this tape for north of 100 thousand dollars. And he kept it form the cops and had it for 5 days and the tape went out over the airwaves and the TV and became a feeding frenzy for the media.
You don’t hear things about guns and robberies and “taking stuff that’s not mine” on the tapes- you hear OJ tell the other people “confront these guys and they are going to say yeah, this stuff is stolen.” And that actually happens – they knew that the property was stolen – that’s a fact – it’s on the tapes – Fromong and Beardsley will also say that they have a conversation amongst themselves after OJ left the room – and they don’t discuss the fact that they’ve been robbed or assaulted – or calling police – the first thing said is “we have to call Lydia at Inside Edition” you hear Fromong talk about how he will give an exclusive to Inside Edition and they’ll have to pay the big buck to get it.
You will see firsthand how stories in this case started to change when people realized that media outlets and tabloids were willing to write checks for testimony and interviews.
You will also see what the state of Nevada did. Their witnesses weren’t the only ones selling stories. In order to make a case against OJ the state of Nevada was messing with people’s liberties to get them to say what they wanted them to say.
These tapes – and not just the snippets that Mr. Owens pulled out – but all of the tapes – in their entirety – will tell the story.
In order to commit a felony – you have to have mens rea – which is felonious intent – this case is all about the intent of the parties. There isn’t anything else in dispute – was there the intent to rob, burglarize and steal or was it the intent to recover property? The evidence will not show that OJ intended to commit a crime – it will show that from day one, until today, it’s always been about the recovery of personal stolen items of OJ’s.
OJ is not guilty of committing any crimes – this wasn’t a robbery it was a recovery.
And so concludes Yale Gallanter’s opening statement on behalf of his client, OJ Simpson.
Mr. Lucharini – for Charles Stuart – is up next. He makes the case for his client that unlike almost every other participant in this trial Stuart never asked anyone for money, he isn’t writing a book and has no intentions of writing a book. Most of the people in this case have an agent – Stuart just wants his life back. He didn’t know what was going down, as far as he knew OJ was going to the Palace Station to pick up some stuff and Stuart had a big SUV that could hold a lot of cargo and OJ asked him to help, so he did. He didn’t know anything about guns or stolen property. He never saw a gun in the room. Stuart was the first one to enter the room and what the people behind him did – well, he never turned around and saw them.
Thank you very much, my client is innocent.
With that, we have a break for lunch, when we get back, Bruce Fromong, one of the alleged victims, will take the stand.
Bruce Fromong is in the “memorabilia” business. Has been for 20 years. It started as a sports card hobby with his son and then grew to where they were selling out of their garage on the weekends, then going to card shows and selling there. He met up with Mike Gilbert and they were a good fit – Mike Gilbert had access to athletes and Fromong had access to outlets to get those athletes promotion gigs. They started a company called “Locker 32” – 32 being the jersey number of both OJ Simpson and Marcus Allen, two athletes that Mike Gilbert represented. Mike Gilbert actually owned the company, Fromong was it’s marketing director.
Fromong met Simpson through Mike Gilbert in 1991. They worked together on several promotional deals. Fromong considered OJ not just a business associate, but also a personal friend.
In 1998 or so Fromong was served one of the “turnover” orders in relation to the civil judgment. He was still friends with OJ at that time.
During the tenure of their relationship Fromong had many items of OJ’s that he would personally have OJ sign. He would pay OJ to do this and then he would sell the items either wholesale or retail. Some of those pictures from that time period were amongst the things he brought to the Palace Station hotel on the night in question. Fromong lists some of the other items he had with him that evening, which in total were about 7-800 different items. Of these hundreds of items 12-13 items were known to Fromong as “personal items” of OJ’s.
Fromong says he acquired these items from Mike Gilbert -t hat he bought them from him or that they were given to him as repayment of debts he had with Gilbert. He says that they were initially given to him by Mike’ Gilbert’s mistress, who had them in a storage facility in California. Formong says that he, personally, stole none of the items.
David Roger then asks Fromong who Alfred Beardsley is. Fromong describes Beardsley as a groupie – someone who knew that Fromong had OJ stuff, that he was friends with OJ and Mike Gilbert, and who was always hanging around asking to be introduced to OJ. Fromong says that he actually did introduce Simpson and Beardsley, and that Beardsley went to OJ’s house maybe once or twice with Fromong.
Beardsley was always trying to make a buck or two and Fromong would give him a list of the things that he had available at any given time and Beardsley would try to find a buyer.
It was about a week before September 13th that Beardsley called Fromong and said that he had a buyer interested in OJ stuff. Fromong understood that although it was mostly Simpson things they wanted to buy, he should also bring along other items, because there was no telling what the buyer would want. Fromong says he told Beardsley on the phone in that initial call what he had available and Beardsley called him almost every day that week setting up the deal. Only on the 12th did Beardsley say that the deal would take place the following day at the Palace Station Hotel. At this point Fromong still did not know who the buyer was – only that it was an auctioneer from Los Angeles. He testifies that usually he likes to know more about the identity of his buyers, but he had known Beardsley so long, and Beardsley said the buyer was reputable, so it didn’t really bother him.
He was supposed to meet the buyer and Beardsley at the Palace Station at 6 pm. He went there alone, with all of the items in his truck. He parked in the main registration entrance in a handicapped parking area. He was talking to Beardsley on his cell phone as he approached the hotel to know where to meet him. They met him at the valet area – Beardsley was alone at that point. They went and met Tom Riccio at the bar and that’s when Fromong was introduced to him. Fromong testifies that he had never heard of Riccio until that point.
Fromong brought Riccio to the truck to show him the items – which is when Riccio asked “Is that all there is?” Riccio asked if they could take the items to his hotel room and Fromong said he really wasn’t comfortable doing that, but Mr. Riccio said that the buyer was running late and having the stuff all laid out and ready would speed the process up once the buyer arrived. Finally Fromong relented and they had a bellmen help carry the items to the room. As they laid everything out Fromong says that Riccio kept questioning him about other items “Do I have more of this or that? What else do I have” Fromong testifies that Riccio seemed disappointed that there wasn’t more there.
Finally Riccio went to the lobby to meet the buyer and bring him back to the room. Fromong testifies that he was on the phone when Riccio left. When Riccio came back, there was a knock on the door, Fromong was at the foot of the bed, still on the telephone, Beardsley was standing near the corner of the bed, and then the door burst open and people started coming in single file. The first guy through the door came towards Fromong and the second man came in with a gun drawn. Someone shouted at Fromong to “Get off the phone!” So Fromong ended his call and put the phone on the bed. The third person in the room was Riccio – he was pushed aside by those behind him. OJ was the last person to enter the room.
Fromong identifies the first man to come into the room – the one who approached him and was immediately in his face – as Clarence Stuart.
Fromong testifies that as soon as OJ came in the room he was shouting at hollering – mostly at Alfred Beardsley. He was hollering “You stole my shit! Why did you steal my shit! I thought you were a good guy and you stole from me!” Fromong also related that the very first thing OJ said when he came in the room was “Don’t let anybody out of here.”
The second guy to come through the door was the one who was the most aggressive – he had a gun and had it drawn and was pointing it mostly at Fromong. The fourth person in the room also had a gun – but it wasn’t drawn – it was in his waistband.
Fromong then testifies that someone – he doesn’t know who – said “Put the gun down” – and that Simpson was waving his arm up and down in a “put the gun down” motion – left arm to his side waving his arm up and down.
Fromong then says that in response to OJ yelling and screaming about his stolen shit, that he told OJ “I didn’t steal your shit – Mike did.” And that OJ then said “I know Mike stole my shit!” Fromong said he told OJ this even though he knew that Mike didn’t “steal his shit” and that he had no independent knowledge that the shit was stolen to begin with.
Fromong testifies that he and Beardsley were frisked, and that the men checked the room for weapons, checking under pillows and behind stuff.
OJ then said “This is all my shit! Gather this shit up! Get a pillowcase!” The men then put all the stuff into pillowcases and boxes and although OJ was giving directions, the gunman seemed to be the one doing all the hollering and yelling – saying at one point “If this was LA, shit would be different.”
Fromong then explains that as he and OJ were talking about Mike Gilbert, and how Mike Gilbert was the one that had stolen OJ’s shit, Fromong had told OJ that he would give him Mike’s phone number – that he had his phone number in his phone. He then picked the phone up off the bed where he had tossed it when the men came in the room, and was trying to retrieve the number. When the men were done gathering up all the items from the bed, the gunman was screaming that they had to leave, that they had to get out of there, and OJ took the phone from Fromong and started trying to find the number himself. OJ was the last person to leave the room and Fromong said to him “OJ, I just got that phone – don’t take my phone” and OJ asked where the number was stored and said that he would get the number and that he would leave the phone at the desk for Fromong to retrieve later.
Fromong says that after everyone left, leaving himself, Beardsley and Riccio in the room, that he and Beardsley hollered at each other for a minute, and Beardsley, who still had his phone, said “I’m calling the police”. Riccio told him not to, but Beardsley called the police anyway and told them what had happened.
David Roger then shows the witness a series of photographs establishing everyone’s identity, where everyone was in the room, where he parked his car, and then they go through all of the recovered items that were taken that night, describing the items as “game ball presented to OJ Simpson”, “personal photo of OJ and J Edgar Hoover autographed to OJ”, “Game ball from Detroit Lions”.
Getting back to the testimony, Fromong testifies that after Beardsley called 911, Fromong went to the front desk to report that they had just been robbed at gunpoint by OJ Simpson. The front desk clerks laughed at him and didn’t seem to believe him. Fromong says that he then went to his truck and considered taking his gun and going to find the men by himself, but didn’t.
He returned to the hotel, went back to the front desk to make sure they were taking him seriously and calling security – then he placed a call to someone named “Vivianna” – who was a member of the media – and he left a message for her to call him, that he had been robbed at gunpoint by OJ Simpson. He returned tot he room, told Beardsley that he had called Vivianna, and that he was trying to get in touch with Lydia from Inside edition. He says he did this because he was hurt and upset that his “best friend” had robbed him at gunpoint – and because it was news. Beardsley asked him if he knew how much money they could make and Fromong says he told Beardsley “I don’t give a shit.”
Thus ends the direct examination of the witness.
Gil Grasso for the defense of OJ is up first for the cross.
Grasso immediately hones on on the fact that Fromong testified that someone in the room that night said “Put the gun down”. Grasso asks the witness if he ever, in any of his many police statements, or in his testimony at the preliminary hearing, had ever mentioned this before – that someone said “Put the gun down”. Fromong says no, he never said that before now. Grasso then asks Fromong if the jury, on hearing the tape, will actually hear someone say “Put the gun down”. Fromong says No they won’t, but someone said it.
Grasso then asks Fromong if OJ ever threatened him that night. After a long cat and mouse game of exactly what the definition of :”threaten” is, Grasso cuts to the chase and whips out the witnesses prior testimony and has him read the part where he says “OJ never made a threat towards me that night.”
Grasso then reminds the witness that he had previously testified that he wasn’t scared – the witness agrees that he wasn’t – he was “hurt”. The witness also concedes that OJ told the other people in the room to only take OJ’s stuff, and leave the other stuff alone.
Grasso then gets the witness to characterize the friendship between himself and OJ – reminding the witness that OJ called his mom on her birthday and called Fromong the day after his mother was killed – that there was never a cross word between them – that OJ had no reason to fear the witness at all – and how silly it would be for OJ to think he would have to bring a gun to a meeting between the two. The witness gets all teary eyed and choked up and answers “yes, that’s true” to most of the statements.
Grasso then goes through the items that were taken that night and sorts them according to “mass produced memorabilia” and “personal item of OJ’s”. He distinguishes for the jury the difference between the commercial items which may exist in mass quantities and the one of a kind items that would hold extra value to the recipient.
The witness admits freely and without hesitation that in all his years of knowing OJ, he knows that these game balls and presentation balls are not something that OJ would ever sell. He says “OJ never sells his own stuff.” He also admits that after the incident he had a heart attack and that from his hospital bed he gave an interview to Ted Rowlands of the Larry King show and that during that interview he characterized some of the items that were taken that night as “heirlooms” and that he told Ted Rowlands that these items should go back to OJ’s family.
Somehow the mention of the witnesses previous heart attack must have triggered something in him, because it was about then that he started clutching at this chest. Shortly thereafter the judge asked him if he was OK, and called a break. The witness was helped from the stand by the bailiff and when court resumed after the break it was hinted at that there might have been an ambulance involved, and that it was unknown when the witness would be back to resume his testimony.
The judge said that we would proceed with the next witness, and both attorneys for the defendants strenuously objected – Lucharini saying that the longer the witness’s testimony remained unchallenged, the more credence it would have in the minds of the jurors.
The judge notes their objections and tells the state to call it’s next witness – one Ismael Flores. Who testifies that he was a bellman and that he helped Fromong and Riccio carry the memorabilia into the hotel room. I guess just in cas eit was ever in doubt that bellman do that sort of thing.
And court is done for the day. Thank God.
To sum up: Opening statements – 2; Bellboys – 1; Personal Items of OJ’s – 12 or 13. Heart attacks – 1.