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Simpson arraigned, pleads not guilty

O.J. Simpson’s next stay in Las Vegas could be a long one.

After the former football star pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, robbery and other charges Wednesday morning in a 10-minute hearing, one of his lawyers said he expected the upcoming trial to stretch as long as two months.

Most of that time would be spent wading through a jury pool to find 12 impartial jurors, Yale Galanter said.

“I assure you we will leave no stone unturned,” Galanter said.

Simpson, Charles Ehrlich and Clarence Stewart all pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the 12 charges each faces related to a Sept. 13 incident in a Palace Station hotel room. Prosecutors believe the trio took part in the armed robbery of two memorabilia dealers so Simpson could reclaim property he thought had been stolen from him.

Simpson’s lawyers have said the property was his and nobody used guns.

The defendants could face up to life in prison if convicted on the kidnapping charges.

District Judge Jackie Glass asked each defendant how far he went in school and if they understood English and the charges against them.

Simpson was reserved throughout the hearing and answered questions with, “Yes, your honor.”

Before the proceeding, the NFL hall of famer had chatted with Ehrlich about the Thanksgiving holiday.

The judge sped through the hearing, slowing only for one of Ehrlich’s lawyers to object to the charges.

John Moran Jr. promised to file a writ of habeas corpus to challenge the case, saying prosecutors used vague language in the criminal complaint and “chilled” his client’s right against self-incrimination by placing his name on the witness list.

The list includes Ehrlich, Stewart, and the three men who have pleaded guilty in the case in exchange for testimony against the co-defendants. Simpson’s name wasn’t on the list because of a clerical error but would be added.

The witness list includes the parents of Ron Goldman, who was slain in 1994 with Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. It includes anyone who might have information about the case, but it doesn’t mean they will testify.

The judge noted Moran’s objection and said a hearing on any legal challenges to the case would be heard within three weeks of the filing of a transcript of the preliminary hearing, which ended Nov. 14.

Glass set an April 7 trial date, which was agreed upon by her and the lawyers before the hearing.

Galanter predicted an “onerous and tedious” jury selection that would probably take longer than the trial. He remained confident in his defense, which during the preliminary hearing focused on attacking the credibility of the witnesses who said Simpson orchestrated the confrontation and asked for guns to be brought to the meeting.

“We don’t know what the crime was,” Galanter said. “I don’t know what my client did wrong.”

Galanter said Simpson would not have to appear at any court hearings until the trial.

“Mr. Simpson is glad the arraignment is over with, and he’s glad he doesn’t have to come back to Vegas until April,” Galanter said.

Simpson’s return will bring back the circus of reporters, publicity seekers and oddballs outside the Regional Justice Center.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the three-ring circus of two weeks ago had dwindled to one ring, with just a handful of satellite trucks and a few news vans parked in the courthouse parking lot.

When Simpson left the courthouse, he was greeted by news cameras, a middle-aged woman in a Wonder Woman outfit, and a Michael Jackson impersonator wearing a baseball cap with the words “OJ 3 — Final Chapter.”

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

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