Defense rests in OJ's armed robbery trial


(AP) -- O.J. Simpson's defense rested its case today without calling the former football star to the stand. Instead, his lawyers wrapped up with a voice mail from a key prosecution witness offering to tailor his testimony if he was paid enough.

Lawyers for Simpson's co-defendant, Clarence "C.J." Stewart, called only one witness before resting their case. Stewart's cousin, Linda Lockheart, said Stewart was elsewhere, entertaining friends, when Simpson and others gathered to plan a hotel room confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers.

Simpson and Stewart have pleaded not guilty to 12 criminal charges, including armed robbery and kidnapping. Each man could face five years to life in prison if convicted in the Sept. 13, 2007, confrontation.

The prosecution began calling rebuttal witnesses after the defense testimony. The voicemail left for Simpson's friend, Tom Scotto, was a last-minute surprise by the defense.

"If I get some help, I'll do whatever I can," said Walter Alexander, whose message was played for jurors in a hushed courtroom.

"I can do quite a bit," said Alexander, one of four former co-defendants who pleaded guilty to reduced charges in return for their testimony against Simpson.

Scotto was asked what he thought after hearing the message and responded: "Basically, he was selling his testimony."

The call came to Scotto about a month after Simpson and a group of men, including Alexander, were arrested on allegations of robbing two sports memorabilia dealers in a casino hotel room at gunpoint. The confrontation involved Simpson's effort to reclaim mementos of his storied career from two dealers peddling the items.

Scotto, 46, a North Miami Beach, Fla., auto repair shop owner who became a close friend of Simpson's over the past eight years, provided a dramatic account that played out against the backdrop of his impending wedding, which brought Simpson and others to Las Vegas.

His account was interspersed with details of trips to the marriage license bureau, the bakery and the florist.

Scotto told of being cornered by Alexander and former co-defendant Michael McClinton during a party being given for the wedding couple the night after the confrontation at the Palace Station casino and hotel. He said that the two men tried to extort him for $50,000, and that McClinton threatened violence if he wasn't paid.

"They said, 'Come outside. We want to talk to you," he recalled.

Scotto said they demanded $50,000, saying, "this thing went bad and O.J. got them involved in this, and he better call them."

Scotto quoted McClinton as saying, "You don't know me that well. ... I'll shoot everyone up."

He also quoted McClinton as saying there were no guns involved in the confrontation. Scotto said that he walked away from the men but that an hour later they summoned him and told him he had "better come up with the $50,000 or else."

Alexander admitted in earlier testimony that he asked Simpson for money, which he said was to hire a lawyer. In last year's preliminary hearing, he admitted he had offered to tailor his testimony for money, but he denied that during the trial.

Scotto said he felt threatened by the two witnesses but didn't tell police about the alleged shakedown when it happened because they had shown no interest in interviewing him. But when he heard voicemail at his Florida home, he said, he turned it over to police immediately because "I wanted it to stop."

District Attorney David Roger countered the defense testimony by accusing Scotto of telling Stewart he would "take out a contract" on Alexander's life, but he offered no evidence to support the allegation other than "a good faith belief."

"That's ridiculous," Scotto said.

Asked by Roger whether he ever tried to market a book, Scotto said he did but there were no takers.

"Nobody wants to hear a good book about O.J.," he said.

 

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