O.J. Simpson will have one less co-defendant at his side when his armed robbery trial begins next month.
Charles Ehrlich, one of the six men charged with robbing two sports memorabilia dealers last fall at Palace Station, pleaded guilty Monday morning to reduced charges and agreed to testify against the NFL Hall of Famer and his last remaining co-defendant, Charles "C.J." Stewart.
By pleading guilty to attempted accessory to robbery and attempted burglary, Ehr-lich, 54, could face up to five years in prison. He had been facing a possible life sentence under the original charges, which included armed robbery and kidnapping.
Simpson, 61, and Stewart will face those charges and 10 others when their trial starts Sept. 8, almost a year to the day since the Sept. 13 incident at Palace Station.
Authorities think Simpson and five other men raided a hotel room at gunpoint and took thousands of dollars in sports memorabilia involving Simpson and other sports legends. Simpson has maintained that he was trying to retrieve personal belongings and family heirlooms and that no guns were involved.
Four of the six men have pleaded guilty and offered their testimony at trial in exchange for reduced charges.
Simpson's lawyer, Yale Galanter, said he could not immediately assess the effect of Monday's plea.
"The story isn't Ehrlich taking a plea," he said. "The story is what he says in his sworn testimony.
"If it's truthful, it would support Mr. Simpson's defense. But getting this type of sweetheart deal this late in the game shows the prosecution is stretching to try to fill holes in an otherwise weak and crumbling case."
District Attorney David Roger, who is prosecuting the case, would not comment.
Ehrlich's lawyer, John Moran Jr., did not return a call for comment. Neither did Stewart's lawyer, Robert Lucherini.
Court officials said Lucherini had filed a request in Las Vegas to the Nevada Supreme Court to sever Stewart's trial from Simpson's, but the documents had not yet been received by the state high court in Carson City.
Meanwhile, District Court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer said the first 100 of 500 prospective jurors being summoned for the Simpson trial reported to court Monday to fill out questionnaires about their opinions, exposure to media coverage of the case, and their availability to serve during the estimated six-week trial.
Sommermeyer said 100 prospects a day would get questionnaires this week, and prosecutors and defense lawyers would meet with the judge behind closed doors on Aug. 25 to start eliminating those deemed biased or unable to serve on a long trial.
Charles Cashmore, 41, Walter Alexander, 47, and Michael McClinton, 50, pleaded guilty and testified at November's preliminary hearing.
McClinton testified that Simpson asked him to bring guns and "look menacing" during the confrontation with memorabilia dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Brian Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0281.