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He faces life in jail for kidnap, robbery

By unknown | Nov 30, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

LAS VEGAS - OJ Simpson has pleaded not guilty to suspicion of kidnapping and armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers.

LAS VEGAS - OJ Simpson has pleaded not guilty to suspicion of kidnapping and armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers.

The 60-year-old former NFL football star was arraigned on Wednesday, along with two other men, in a strange case that has ballooned to 12 charges and could send them to prison for life.

Simpson's notoriety, gained from past trials on charges of murder and road rage, looms in the background of the Las Vegas episode. His lawyer said jury selection would be an "onerous" task that would probably last longer than the trial itself.

"I am very concerned that we get 12 people on the jury who can listen to the evidence that occurs in the courtroom," attorney Yale Galanter said. "People are going to have opinions."

Simpson's co-defendants, Charles "Charlie" Ehrlich, 53, and Clarence "CJ" Stewart, 53, also entered not guilty pleas, and the judge set trial to April 7. The district attorney listed 78 potential witnesses, including Ehrlich and Stewart, an odd choice since prosecutors may not compel defendants to testify.

Ehrlich's lawyer said it would be impermissible for the prosecutor to call them "if this tortured process does proceed to trial".

Simpson appeared relaxed and cheerful before court convened, chatting with his lawyers and a few friends in the courtroom. He did not comment about the case.

While the lawyer said he would be pleased to have the case resolved without a trial, he said that seemed unlikely unless prosecutors dismissed all charges. A plea bargain, he suggested, was not on the table.

Simpson landed in court after leading an odd raiding party on September 13 in a hotel room confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers to take collectibles and family heirlooms he claimed were his.

Simpson has said he intended only to retrieve items that had been stolen from him by a former agent, including photographs, football awards and the suit he wore the day he was acquitted of murdering his wife, Nicole Brown-Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Prosecutors allege the heist netted thousands of dollars of sports collectibles that did not belong to Simpson. At a preliminary hearing two weeks ago, there were accounts of an angry scene inside the room when a cursing Simpson loudly demanded his possessions.

Threats were made and guns allegedly drawn by two men originally charged in the case. Those men and another cohort were given plea bargains with the possibility of probation in return for their testimony against Simpson, Ehrlich and Stewart. - Sapa


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