Simpson case judge and lawyers to meet


Prosecutors and defense attorneys representing former football star O.J. Simpson and his co-defendants will meet Monday in private with a justice of the peace to schedule a preliminary hearing for the six men accused of robbing collectors of hundreds of thousands of dollars in sports memorabilia, a courthouse source said.

A member of Judge Joe Bonaventure Jr.'s staff confirmed Friday that he will meet with attorneys on the Simpson case in chambers.

Defense attorneys have received notice that prosecutors might conduct a secret grand jury hearing, as opposed to a public preliminary hearing, to determine if there is enough evidence to send the six to District Court to face charges in trial.

But on Friday, attorneys for two Simpson co-defendants, Clarence Stewart and Charles Cashmore, spoke with prosecutor Chris Owens in Bonaventure's courtroom and discussed setting a date for the public hearing at the bench, Stewart's defense attorney, Jose Pallares, said.

Simpson and his co-defendants, Stewart, Walter Alexander, Michael McClinton, Charles Howard Cashmore and Charles Ehrlich, are facing multiple counts of kidnapping, robbery, assault, burglary and conspiracy for their role in the Sept. 13 alleged robbery inside the Palace Station.

Believing their clients would not make bail, Cashmore and McClinton's attorneys requested a preliminary hearing date within 15 days last week and Bonaventure scheduled it for Oct. 4.

But Pallares said now that they have made bail and everyone is out of custody, they could delay that hearing and reschedule it at a later date for every defendant.

"They intend to proceed toward a preliminary hearing for the obvious reason you don't want to have three or four preliminary hearings," Pallares said.

Simpson, Alexander, Stewart and Ehrlich have a status check scheduled in court Oct. 22.

A preliminary hearing for Simpson and his co-defendants, which would be expected to be a media frenzy, also would allow defense attorneys to cross-examine each witness and present their own witnesses.

A grand jury hearing would allow prosecutors to expedite the indictment process and avoid the news media. A defendant would have the right to testify at such a hearing but would not be present while prosecutors presented their case to the secret jury.

Scheduling a preliminary hearing for six defendants and six attorneys by Oct. 4 is unlikely, Pallares said.

Pallares filed a motion in Justice Court to force prosecutors to use the original or an accurate duplicate of a digital audio recording of the alleged armed robbery should they present it at a preliminary or grand jury hearing.

That motion was heard in Bonaventure's courtroom Friday morning.

According to a Las Vegas police report, Thomas Riccio arranged a meeting between two collectors, Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley, and a client to sell Simpson and other athletic memorabilia.

Riccio's client turned out to be Simpson, who entered a Palace Station hotel room with five other men, two of whom were armed. They left with all of the memorabilia, and Fromong's hat and cell phone, the report stated.

Riccio recorded the conversation in the hotel room and it was published on TMZ.com.

That recording, Pallares said, contradicts statements the two victims and Riccio made to police.

According to his motion, one discrepancy Pallares noted was that Riccio told police in his voluntary statement that Simpson gave Fromong and Beardsley the option of turning over his property or he was going to call police. Riccio said one of the two told Simpson, "you don't have to call the cops, just take it."

That is not said in the audio recording played to the public, Pallares said.

Las Vegas police have the full digital recording from Riccio, which they're copying for attorneys, Owens said.

Bonaventure denied Pallares' motion, which was joined by Edward Miley, Cashmore's attorney, to force prosecutors to use an accurate copy of the original recording, adding that prosecutors know the laws regarding the admission of evidence.

"It's premature at this point," Bonaventure said.

Miley asked repeatedly during the Friday hearing whether prosecutors intend to use the audio recording as evidence during the upcoming hearing.

Owens said it was unclear at this time whether they would.

 

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