When Las Vegas police Detective Andy Caldwell was told O.J. Simpson was a robbery suspect, he didn't believe what he had heard, he testified Wednesday.
"It couldn't be true. ... It didn't make sense," he said on the witness stand in the armed robbery and kidnapping trial of Simpson and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart.
Both men are charged with robbing two sports memorabilia dealers last September in a Palace Station hotel room.
Caldwell's skepticism about Simpson's involvement changed after arriving at the hotel and watching security video showing the hall of fame running back on the property that evening, he said.
The investigation stretched into the early morning as police talked to memorabilia dealers Bruce Fromong, Alfred Beardsley and auctioneer Thomas Riccio, who had arranged the meeting in Room 1203.
Caldwell said he considered arresting Riccio but didn't after hearing his entire story.
Riccio has said he worked with Simpson to arrange what they called a sting to retrieve family photos, sports memorabilia and other Simpson heirlooms that were taken from him years ago. Riccio has denied knowing Simpson would be accompanied by men with guns.
On the night of the incident, detectives also considered arresting Simpson, Caldwell said.
They learned he was staying at the Palms and believed they had enough evidence to arrest him, but they wanted to go "above and beyond" because of the media spotlight that was sure to hit the case, Caldwell said.
"If it was anybody else, we would have arrested him that night, but because of who he was, we wanted to make sure we had everything right with our investigation," Caldwell said.
Police arrested him three days later and eventually arrested the five other men who helped him. Four of those men have pleaded guilty to reduced charges in exchange for their testimony at trial.
Caldwell said he was surprised to learn Riccio had secretly recorded the hotel room confrontation along with conversations before and after the event.
Police only learned of the recordings four days after the celebrity Web site TMZ.com posted a clip of the confrontation, he said.
The recorder had been hidden atop an armoire in the room.
"We never knew it was there," Caldwell said.
Riccio turned his digital recorder over to police four days later, but only after negotiating an immunity agreement, he said.
The device contained seven audio recordings made secretly before, during and after the incident.
Caldwell, who transcribed the recordings with his partner, admitted some parts of the recordings are inaudible.
"Sometimes you can't make out what anybody's saying," he said.
And that was after Caldwell sent the recordings to the FBI for audio enhancement to make them easier to understand. The enhancement was done by Kenneth Marr, a forensic audio examiner for the FBI.
Marr also tried to authenticate the recordings by looking at whether they had been tampered with or altered. But Riccio's digital recorder lacked security features, so Marr could not authenticate the recordings, he said during recorded testimony that was concluded Wednesday morning.
"I would not be able to determine if the digital files were or were not altered," said Marr, whose testimony was recorded several weeks ago because he had a vacation that conflicted with the trial.
Brent Bryson, one of Stewart's lawyers, fought against admitting the recordings as evidence.
"We don't want these recordings in. We don't believe they can be authenticated," he said.
He also raised questions about who had access to Riccio's recorder in the eight days between the incident and when it was turned over to police.
District Judge Jackie Glass admitted the recordings over Bryson's objections. The recordings include the hotel room incident and a conversation at the Palms pool where prosecutors believe Simpson and others planned the confrontation.
Contact reporter Brian Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0281.