Moments before leading a hotel room raid to retake his memorabilia, O.J. Simpson told one of his men to pull out his handgun to show they meant business, witnesses testified Tuesday.
"He said, 'Show them your weapon and look menacing,'" said Michael McClinton, who said he complied with Simpson's request before he and five other men rushed into the Palace Station hotel room and walked out with thousands of dollars in memorabilia.
At a meeting in his hotel room at the Palms a few hours earlier, Simpson had asked McClinton and Walter Alexander to bring guns, both men testified.
"He kind of leaned forward and said, 'Do you think you can get some heat in case things go wrong?'" said Alexander, who carried one of the two handguns used in the Sept. 13 incident.
McClinton echoed Alexander and said Simpson asked to see his concealed-weapons permit before asking him to bring his gun.
"He wanted me to come along with him as security and bring my weapon," McClinton said.
Their testimony contradicts Simpson's public statements that no guns were used in the raid and could prove key in the case against Simpson, Charles Ehrlich and Clarence Stewart, who each face robbery with a deadly weapon, kidnapping and 10 other charges.
McClinton, Alexander and Charles Cashmore each agreed to plead guilty to reduced charges in exchange for their testimony against the others.
Authorities allege the six men robbed memorabilia dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley after they were lured to Palace Station on a ruse set up by auctioneer Thomas Riccio, who told them he had a buyer for Fromong's collection of memorabilia.
McClinton and Alexander testified on day three of the preliminary hearing to determine whether enough evidence exists to send the case to trial.
Alexander withstood withering cross examination from one of Simpson's defense lawyers, who attacked his credibility and motivation for becoming a witness for the prosecution.
During his sometimes combative questioning, Yale Galanter accused Alexander of misleading authorities when he told them he was a real estate agent.
"He lied during his statement," Galanter said, his voice filling the courtroom. "He's a pimp. He's not a Realtor."
Alexander denied being a pimp but at one point suggested he might have been one in the past.
Galanter grilled Alexander about a Web site Galanter said was used for prostitution. Alexander dodged most of the lawyer's rapid-fire questions by blaming his ex-wife for a posting in his name and saying he did not remember sending an e-mail changing an outcall service advertisement. He eventually admitted to taking the photos of the women on the site.
Galanter questioned Alexander's motives, suggesting he cooperated with authorities because Simpson would not pay him.
Alexander said he asked for help paying for bail and a lawyer because he blamed Simpson for the situation.
"I was upset he would not pay for the problem he got me into," he said.
Galanter later got Alexander to admit he might have shaded his testimony in Simpson's favor if the former football star had helped pay for a lawyer.
"I really felt he was set up, and I could lean toward that angle instead of telling the exact truth," Alexander testified.
Alexander said he considered the proposition because he was mad about not getting full immunity from prosecutors. He eventually agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery.
McClinton, who pleaded guilty to robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery in District Court on Tuesday morning, found himself defending his memory during cross examination from Simpson's other lawyer, Gabriel Grasso.
Grasso said that McClinton never told police that Simpson wanted him to bring a gun, only that Simpson asked whether he had his gun.
McClinton said he had forgotten.
"In your 85-page voluntary statement, you never said O.J. Simpson told you to bring a gun. That's the one thing you forgot?" Grasso said.
The lawyer later questioned McClinton about a secret audio recording he made of a conversation he and Alexander had with Simpson at a dinner party after the hotel raid. McClinton said he made the recording because Alexander thought they could sell it to the tabloids.
When they were not sparring with defense lawyers, McClinton and Alexander told their stories of what happened the day of the Palace Station raid.
Alexander, a former golfing buddy of Simpson, had flown into Las Vegas that day for the weekend wedding of Simpson friend Thomas Scotto. Alexander was staying with McClinton, a longtime friend who lived in Las Vegas.
Alexander said that after Stewart called him that afternoon saying Simpson needed help, McClinton and he drove to the Palms to meet with Simpson and discuss the plan.
"There really wasn't much of a plan," he said. "He wanted us to bring guns in case anything happened and to look tough."
After the meeting, the two men visited a spy shop and bought a mini-camera. They intended to hide it and record the raid to protect themselves, Alexander said, though he acknowledged a "remote possibility" of selling it.
McClinton agreed they bought the camera but said the purchase was before the Simpson meeting and was intended to record the NFL hall of famer partying.
After meeting Simpson, McClinton and Alexander went to McClinton's house to change clothes and pick up two semi-automatic handguns, the men testified. McClinton armed himself with his .45-caliber pistol and gave his .22-caliber pistol to Alexander, the men testified.
They then met the others at Palace Station.
Both men said Simpson asked McClinton to pull out his gun just before they entered Room 1203. McClinton said he shouted orders during the six minutes of chaos inside the room but denied raising his gun above his hip, contrary to several other witnesses.
He said he made a threat to Riccio to make him look like an unwitting victim in the heist.
The group left the room with Simpson plaques and footballs, as well as baseballs and lithographs of other sports stars. The six men met at the Palms before McClinton and Alexander returned to McClinton's house to drop off the guns and change clothes again.
While at the house Alexander asked for a towel, wiped down the .22-caliber pistol and returned it, McClinton said.
They returned to the Palms for a wedding reception dinner at Little Buddha. The men testified that they, with the tape recorder running, pulled Simpson aside at the restaurant to discuss what had happened.
Simpson did not seem to take it seriously and laughed at how McClinton acted during the raid, Alexander said.
"He stood up and was like, 'You're a heavy-handed (expletive). Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.' Like it was a big joke," Alexander said.
Simpson told the men they would not have to worry if they denied any guns had been used, Alexander said.
"It ain't (expletive). Just stick to no guns involved," Alexander quoted Simpson as saying.
McClinton echoed that testimony.
"He didn't want any guns to be talked about," he said.
Worried about the kind of trouble he could face, Alexander asked whether Simpson would pay for bail and a lawyer. Simpson told him he would not go to jail if he left town, he said.
The conversation upset Alexander, who said he felt as if Simpson did not care what happened to him. When Las Vegas police stopped him at McCarran International Airport two days later, Alexander agreed to cooperate.
"I'm not going to jail for O.J., and I'm going to tell the truth," Alexander said.
On the witness stand, McClinton said the two lawyers who represent Stewart, Robert Lucherini and Jose Pallares, tried to persuade him to deny any guns were used. McClinton said the comment was made during a meeting at Lucherini's office with the lawyers and Stewart.
After the hearing, Lucherini said he made the comment to Stewart, who had just learned from McClinton that a gun had been used. Lucherini said he was telling his client to stick to his story, which was he never saw a gun or knew guns had been used.
"I guarantee you I would never, ever tell a witness to lie," Lucherini said. "McClinton has a story to sell to get the deal he got, and if he has to go after an attorney to sell it, that's what he's going to do."
District Attorney David Roger had no comment.
The preliminary hearing was expected to wrap up today with testimony from Beardsley.
Public interest in the proceedings has waned since it began Thursday. While a few dozen television news crews still lined the street outside the Regional Justice Center, the collection of people in animal suits and other colorful characters had dwindled to a couple of people hocking Web sites and a man carrying a "Jesus Saves" banner.
Contact reporter Brian Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 383-0281.