Witness says he brandished handgun


Moments before O.J. Simpson and five other men stormed a Palace Station hotel room, Simpson gave one final order, gunman Michael McClinton testified Friday.

"Mr. Simpson asked me to show my weapon and look menacing," he told the jury during Simpson's armed robbery trial.

McClinton said he pulled out his .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun, entered the room, and began shouting orders at the two stunned sports memorabilia dealers inside.

"When Mr. Simpson yelled, pretty much I yelled too," McClinton testified.

Simpson and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart face armed robbery, kidnapping and other charges in connection with last September's alleged hold up of Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong. McClinton pleaded guilty to robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery and agreed to testify.

McClinton, 50, first met Simpson about five years ago through a mutual acquaintance, Walter Alexander. On the day of the robbery, McClinton picked up Alexander and drove to the Palms to meet Simpson, he said.

Alexander had flown in from Mesa, Ariz., for the wedding of Thomas Scotto, Simpson's best friend.

Inside the room, McClinton showed Simpson his concealed weapons permit, and Simpson asked him and Alexander to join the operation to collect his one-of-a-kind sports memorabilia, which he believed had been stolen years ago.

The men then headed to McClinton's northwest Las Vegas home and armed themselves with semi-automatic handguns -- McClinton with a .45-caliber Ruger and Alexander with a .22-caliber Beretta. Both guns belonged to McClinton.

They headed to Palace Station and met Simpson, Stewart, Charles Ehrlich and Charles Cashmore. The group eventually found Thomas Riccio, the middleman who set up the bogus business deal, and followed him through the casino to his room.

Following Simpson's request, McClinton said he pulled out his gun just as he entered the door and brandished it throughout the six-minute confrontation.

Simpson yelled, "Don't let no one out of this room," and was standing shoulder to shoulder with him during the early part of the incident, he said.

The men eventually left the room with footballs, lithographs and other sports memorabilia and rendezvoused at the Palms parking lot, where they transferred the items to another vehicle.

As he stood in the parking lot, Simpson said the police had been called and began saying, "There's no guns," McClinton said.

"He was a bit excited about that, and not in a good way," he said.

Simpson's lawyers have said he didn't ask anyone to bring guns and never saw guns in the hotel room.

The group split up and McClinton and Alexander headed back to McClinton's house, where they changed clothes before returning to the Palms for a wedding-related dinner party.

McClinton hid a tape recorder in his coat pocket in hopes of recording Simpson talking about the incident, he said. Alexander wanted to sell the recording to the tabloids, he said.

Earlier this week, Alexander testified that he wanted the recording to protect himself and McClinton in case Simpson blamed them for bringing guns.

On the 26-minute recording, the conversation between the three men frequently touched on the events from that evening.

"This ain't no major crime," Simpson said on the recording.

When the conversation turned to security video, Simpson asked McClinton about the gun.

"You didn't pull the piece out in the hall?" Simpson asked, according to a transcript of the tape.

"No, no, no, no, no, no, hell no," McClinton replied.

"There ain't nothin' on that video and look, they gonna look at the video," Simpson said. "Ain't nothing they can see. They gonna see us goin' in the place. Then they gonna see us leaving with just the boxes."

Simpson also repeatedly said there were no guns used, McClinton said.

Earlier Friday, defense lawyers played clips from Riccio's hidden audio recorder that captured Las Vegas police personnel joking about Simpson's past and discussing his impending arrest.

During one exchange, robbery Lt. Clint Nichols and a crime scene analyst identified only as Perkins talked inside the room about a boxing glove signed by Muhammad Ali.

"Hey, if the glove don't fit, then you must acquit. ... We were just talking about (Johnnie) Cochran and (Robert) Shapiro a little while ago. I guess he's going to have to use Barry Scheck for this one," Perkins joked, referring to three lawyers on Simpson's legal "dream team" during his 1995 double-murder trial.

Later, Nichols tells Perkins that a detective was watching Simpson at a night club and prepared to arrest him.

"Just waiting for a phone call. We'll snatch him up," Nichols said.

However, police did not arrest him that night, choosing to take more time to shore up their investigation to withstand the scrutiny Simpson's high-profile status would bring.

"There will be no good outcome for our agency on this no matter what we do," Nichols said that night. "Because if I don't arrest him, you gave him preferential treatment, and when we do, they'll find so many holes in what we did."

McClinton is the final witness for the prosecution. The defense is expected to start presenting its case Monday after McClinton's cross examination.

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

 

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