O.J. Simpson switches lawyers just before his Supreme Court appeal


O.J. Simpson has switched lawyers on the eve of his appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court to reverse his conviction in an armed hotel room heist.

Las Vegas attorney Gabriel Grasso on Friday cited an unspecified rift with Simpson's longtime, Miami-based lawyer, Yale Galanter, for the move to add Malcolm Lavergne and drop Grasso from the case.

"There's been an ongoing disagreement between Yale and I over the last few months, and I've decided to withdraw from the case," Grasso said. He declined to provide details about the conflict.

Simpson, 61, is serving his sentence in Lovelock State Prison northeast of Reno. The former football star signed documents submitted Monday and approved Wednesday by the state high court to make the switch effective May 15.

Galanter characterized the move as a substitution. He remains in charge of the case but needs a Nevada lawyer to appear with him before courts in the state.

He said Friday that Simpson's appeal will be filed with the state Supreme Court by Tuesday's deadline.

"The decision to sever the relationship was done in a very orderly fashion," Galanter said by telephone from Miami.

"I've been retained to help handle the appeal," said Lavergne, who initially sought to represent Simpson after the NFL hall-of-famer's arrest with five other men in September 2007.

Lavergne said he followed the case closely and developed a rapport with Galanter.

Lavergne said appeals were not a specialty of his broad practice in Nevada, Texas and New York, but that he once worked as a clerk in the New York Court of Appeals, that state's highest court.

Simpson is serving nine to 33 years in state prison after he was convicted in October of kidnapping and robbing two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in September 2007 in a Las Vegas hotel room.

Four former co-defendants took plea deals, testified against Simpson and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart, and received probation for convictions on various felony charges.

Stewart, 55, was convicted with Simpson and was sentenced to 71/2 to 27 years in prison. He is expected to file a separate appeal by Wednesday.

 

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