‘Foggy’ memory attacked

O.J. Simpson lawyer Yale Galanter and witness Charles Ehrlich have known each other for 15 years.

They have mutual friends and frequent the same Florida restaurants. They consider themselves friends.

But that didn’t stop the defense lawyer from going on the attack Tuesday against what Galanter called Ehrlich’s “foggy” memory.

“You understand I’m not your friend in this courtroom,” Galanter told Ehrlich.

“I understand, Yale,” he replied.

Galanter lived up to his word as he consistently poked holes in Ehrlich’s testimony in the trial of Simpson and co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart on armed robbery and kidnapping charges.

During his testimony Tuesday, Ehrlich was at times defiant, jocular and confused depending on the questions about his role in last September’s holdup of two sports memorabilia dealers in a Palace Station hotel room.

Galanter asked Ehrlich several questions about details of that evening.

“You’re asking me specifics. I don’t remember, Mr. Galanter,” Ehrlich said.

In one stretch, Galanter asked Ehrlich about whether he spoke with Las Vegas police before or after he entered his guilty plea in early August. Ehrlich’s answer was the opposite of what happened.

“We have a witness who is sketchy at best,” Galanter told the judge in response to an objection to a line of questioning.

Ehrlich, who is also a friend of Simpson, was recruited to pose as a buyer in a sting designed to take back footballs and other memorabilia that once were displayed in Simpson’s trophy room.

Ehrlich testified Monday that he thought he was helping a friend recover his stolen property and was shocked when a man brandished a handgun in the hotel room.

On Tuesday, he testified he was nervous about the plan, which called for him to verify the property was Simpson’s before calling in Simpson and other men to confront the sellers, who turned out to be Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley. Ehrlich said he was especially worried about Thomas Riccio, the auctioneer who concocted the plan with Simpson.

“He was kinda scaring me. He made it look like it was some kinda robbery,” Ehrlich said of Riccio and their discussion of the plan at the Palms pool, hours before the incident.

Ehrlich urged Simpson to postpone the plan for a day.

“I had second thoughts. I wanted to wait until the next day because I wanted to think about this,” he testified.

But Ehrlich later testified he did not think he was involved in anything illegal.

During questioning by one of Stewart’s lawyers, Ehrlich said Stewart took part in conversations about the plan at the Palms pool. But when Brent Bryson asked for specifics, Ehrlich said he could not remember any.

Bryson also touched on Ehrlich’s testimony from Monday, when he told the jury he heard Simpson say, “Put the guns away,” during the confrontation. Bryson asked Ehrlich whether he heard those words on a secret audio recording made by Riccio.

“Not that I can recall,” he answered.

Ehrlich’s time on the stand was followed by a nearly three-hour break in testimony as prosecutors and defense lawyers argued about whether an attorney for Fred Goldman should be allowed to testify about a civil judgment against Simpson.

Prosecutors want to call David Cook to testify about the $33.5 million judgment levied against Simpson after a jury found him liable in the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of slaying the pair.

District Attorney David Roger said Cook should be allowed to testify because the judgment played a key role in Simpson’s plan to take the memorabilia.

“Mr. Simpson talked about the Goldman estate throughout these recordings. That he was hiding property from the Goldmans’ estate,” Roger said.

Roger said Simpson’s former agent, Mike Gilbert, will testify that he and Simpson relatives cleared his home of valuables after getting tipped off about sheriff’s deputies coming the next day to seize his property to help satisfy the civil judgment.

“He’s angry at Mike Gilbert because Mike Gilbert was supposed to keep this property hidden,” Roger said. “He was supposed to take this property and hide it in Florida.”

Galanter accused prosecutors of using Cook to bring up the double-murder case in this trial and prejudice the jury against his client.

“He has a tendency to just blurt things out,” Galanter said of Cook. “He blurts stuff out that’s very prejudicial.”

Galanter said he would call for a mistrial if Cook were allowed to take the stand.

The battle over Cook’s potential testimony prompted Stewart’s lawyers to renew their oft-rejected motion to grant him a separate trial.

“This is a perfect example of the prejudicial spillover effect,” said Robert Lucherini, an attorney for Stewart.

District Judge Jackie Glass denied that motion and was expected to rule on Cook’s testimony this morning.

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

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