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Simpson pleads not guilty

A judge in Las Vegas sets trial for the former football star and others for April 7.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published November 29, 2007


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LAS VEGAS - O.J. Simpson stood before a judge Wednesday and firmly spoke a phrase he has uttered in other courtrooms in the past: "Not guilty."

This time the former football star was arraigned, along with two other men, on suspicion of kidnapping and armed robbery of sports memorabilia dealers in a strange case that has ballooned to 12 charges that could send Simpson and the others 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 that can listen to the evidence that occurs in the courtroom," attorney Yale Galanter said on the courthouse steps. "People are going to have opinions."

Simpson's co-defendants, Charles "Charlie" Ehrlich, 53, and Clarence "C.J." Stewart, 53, also entered not guilty pleas, and Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass set trial for all three men on April 7.

The prosecutor declined to comment outside court.

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

Simpson, 60, of Miami has maintained that 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 the death of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Prosecutors allege the heist netted tens of thousands of dollars of sports collectibles that didn't belong to Simpson.

At a colorful preliminary hearing two weeks ago, there were accounts of an angry scene inside the Palace Station casino hotel room during which a cursing Simpson loudly demanded his possessions. Threats were made and guns allegedly were drawn by two men originally charged in the case.

Those men and another were given plea bargains with the possibility of probation in return for their testimony against Simpson, Ehrlich and Stewart.

Simpson maintains that he never saw any guns at the scene and had not asked anyone to bring guns.

The preliminary hearing offered the first view of a cast of witnesses described by Galanter as "a defense attorney's dream" because of their credibility problems. One of them admitted he would have changed his testimony to favor Simpson if he had been paid enough.

[Last modified November 29, 2007, 02:27:24]


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