Simpson jury hears sides wrap up case


To prosecutors, O.J. Simpson was the criminal mastermind who planned and led the hotel room hold up to steal back his sports memorabilia.

To his lawyers, Simpson was a victim of profiteers eager to cash in on his celebrity and of a police force out to get him.

But the only opinion that matters belongs to the jury of nine women and three men, which is set to start deliberations today after more than two weeks of trial testimony in the case against Simpson and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart. Each man faces 12 criminal charges, including armed robbery and kidnapping.

During closing arguments Thursday, prosecutors painted Simpson as an arrogant celebrity whose desire to reclaim his sports mementos took a back seat to his thirst for revenge on the man he believed stole them from him.

When he burst through the door, Simpson hoped to confront Mike Gilbert, his estranged former agent, prosecutor Christopher Owens said.

Simpson believed Gilbert stole the memorabilia from him in the 1990s and believed he was the one selling it at the Palace Station in September 2007, he said.

"His motive was not to get this property. His motive was spite. He was driven by anger," Owens said.

Hence the use of guns and the anger in Simpson's voice when he stormed the room, though the two sellers turned out to be "O.J. groupie" Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong, a one-time business partner of Simpson and Gilbert, he said.

Simpson lawyer Yale Galanter painted a much different picture of the Hall of Fame running back.

"The only thing on Mr. Simpson's mind when he went into that room at the Palace Station was to recover his family heirlooms, his stolen property, that had no value to anyone on the planet, except for Mr. Simpson," he said.

Simpson believed the sellers had his one-of-a-kind sports mementos, including game footballs and plaques and a collection of thousands of family photographs that included snapshots of his dead parents, he said.

The photos were owned by another person and were not in Las Vegas for the Palace Station meeting, but the remaining memorabilia still held immense importance to a man defined by his exploits on the football field.

"This stuff, this isn't property to him. This is his life," Galanter said. "This is about the absolute essence, the cornerstone of O.J. Simpson's life. That's why this property was so sacred and sacred only to him."

Even if the property had been stolen from Simpson, which prosecutors debated, Simpson had no right to take it the way he did, District Attorney David Roger said.

In a civilized society, people with disputes over property go to court and file lawsuits, he said.

"You don't go get a gun and rob people," he said.

Under Nevada law, ownership of property is not a defense for robbery, according to instructions given to the jury.

Galanter accused authorities of targeting Simpson from the start of the case and stacking co-defendants to testify against him.

"This case for the district attorney has never been about a search for the truth. This case has taken a life of its own because Mr. Simpson is involved. You know that. I know that," Galanter said to the jury as he put his hands on Simpson's shoulders.

Galanter, citing jokes and comments about Simpson's double-murder trial caught on a secret audio recording, accused Las Vegas police of targeting Simpson for his past.

"They wanted to get him, and they didn't care what they had to do to get him," he said.

When it came to former co-defendants, prosecutors handed out so many "get-out-of-jail-free cards" that they had an "incredible incentive to twist the truth, to lie, to shade the facts," Galanter said.

Four of the five men who joined Simpson at the hotel room have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and testified against him at trial.

And many of the people involved, including Beardsley, Fromong and the man who helped set up the bogus business deal, Thomas Riccio, either tried or hoped to profit off of the incident, Galanter said.

Riccio made more than $210,000 off his secret recording to the hotel room confrontation.

Owens pointed out that this was the company Simpson kept.

"These are his guys," he said. "These are the kinds of people he surrounds himself with. ... This is his life."

Stewart lawyer Brent Bryson said prosecutors did not prove that his client committed any crime.

Galanter agreed when it came to Simpson, who he said never intended to commit a crime when he gathered a group of men and led them to the hotel room to recover property he rightfully believed was his.

"It's not right, but being stupid, being frustrated, is not being a crook," Galanter said.

Contact reporter Brian Haynes at bhaynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0281.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.