Simpson freed from jail after arraignment
EmptyLAS VEGAS -- O.J. Simpson was released from jail Wednesday after posting bail in connection with the armed robbery of sports memorabilia collectors at a Las Vegas hotel.
Simpson, wearing a light blue sport coat and dark blue pants, carried a black bag as he strolled to a gray sedan with his lawyer and drove away from the Clark County Detention Center.
He did not speak to reporters or to at least one bystander who cheered.
Another spectator shouted, "Justice for Nicole, justice for Ron," as Simpson walked to the car -- a reference to Simpson's acquittal in the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend Ron Goldman.
Simpson's lawyer has said he expected the former football star to return to his Florida home.
Simpson, who spent three nights in the Las Vegas jail, was freed about two hours after appearing in court, where a justice of the peace set his bail at $125,000.
Also Wednesday, a key witness in the case was arrested in Las Vegas for a parole violation.
Alfred Beardsley, 46, was arrested by a fugitive task force at the Luxor hotel and casino, the U.S. Marshals Service said.
Beardsley is one of the two sports memorabilia collectors accusing Simpson and other men of barging into a hotel room and stealing autographed footballs.
Authorities said Beardsley was wanted on a California warrant for a parole violation. He was jailed pending extradition to California.
Earlier in court, Simpson did not enter a plea but said he understood the charges against him, including first-degree kidnapping, which carries the possibility of life in prison with parole.
He answered quietly in a hoarse voice and nodded as Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure Jr. laid out restrictions for his release, including surrendering his passport to his attorney and having no contact with co-defendants or potential witnesses.
Unlike his arraignment over a decade ago in the 1994 killings of his ex-wife and her friend, when Simpson declared he was "absolutely 100% not guilty," he was subdued throughout the proceeding Wednesday.
"Mr. Simpson do you understand the charges against you?" the judge asked.
"Yes, sir," said Simpson, wearing a blue jail uniform and handcuffs.
Attorney Yale Galanter said Simpson would plead not guilty.
Simpson posted bond through the "You Ring We Spring Bail Bonds" company, said bondsman Miguel Pereira, who drove Simpson's relatives and girlfriend to and from the courthouse in a black SUV.
Pereira said he wasn't nervous about accepting the bond, which can cost between 10 and 15% of the $125,000. The company is responsible for ensuring Simpson attends court hearings.
"He's not a flight risk. I have a gut feeling and I'm good at my job," Pereira said.
Security at the courthouse was tight for the arraignment hearing. People entering the courtroom were screened by security officers and Las Vegas police with bomb-sniffing dogs.
The case has attracted a swarm of media, including Marcia Clark, who unsuccessfully prosecuted Simpson for the 1994 murders and was reporting for "Entertainment Tonight."
Simpson, 60, was arrested Sunday after a collector reported a group of armed men charged into his hotel room at the Palace Station casino and took several items that Simpson claimed belonged to him. He has been held since then in protective custody in a 7-foot-by-14-foot cell.
The Heisman Trophy winner was charged with kidnapping, robbery with use of a deadly weapon, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, coercion with use of a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Authorities allege that the men went to the room on the pretext of brokering a deal with two longtime collectors, Beardsley and Bruce Fromong. According to police reports, the collectors were ordered at gunpoint to hand over several items valued at as much as $100,000.
Beardsley told police that one of the men with Simpson brandished a pistol, frisked him and impersonated a police officer, and that another man pointed a gun at Fromong.
"I'm a cop and you're lucky this ain't LA or you'd be dead," the man said, according to the report.
"One of the thugs -- that's the best thing I can call them -- somebody blurted out 'police!' and they came in military style," Beardsley said Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show. "I thought it might have been law enforcement or the FBI or something because I was ordered to stand up, and I was frisked for weapons."
"At no time did Mr. Simpson hold any type of firearm at all," he said.
Beardsley also cast doubt on the authenticity of a recording of the confrontation made by Tom Riccio, the man who arranged the meeting between Simpson and the two collectors. Riccio reportedly sold that tape to celebrity gossip Web site TMZ.com.
"I do not believe that these tapes are accurate," Beardsley said. He said information was missing and the recordings should be professionally analyzed.
"Simpson confronted me, saying 'Man what's wrong with you, you have a turn-over order, you have a turn-over order for this stuff, man,"' Beardsley said, but he said that part wasn't on the tapes.
The Los Angeles Times reported that court records show Riccio has an extensive criminal history from the 1980s and '90s, including grand larceny in Florida, possession of stolen goods in Connecticut and receiving stolen property in California. According to the newspaper, Riccio acknowledged his past in a telephone interview late Tuesday.
Riccio said he was not concerned with how his past might affect his credibility "because everything's on tape. That's why it's on tape."
He also said he had been promised some form of immunity by prosecutors.
The memorabilia taken from the hotel room included football game balls signed by Simpson, Joe Montana lithographs, baseballs autographed by Pete Rose and Duke Snider and framed awards and plaques, together valued at as much as $100,000.
Although Simpson was acquitted of murder charges in the deaths of his ex-wife and Goldman, a jury later held him liable for the killings in a wrongful death lawsuit and ordered him to pay a $33.5 million judgment. On Tuesday, a California judge gave a lawyer for Goldman's father a week to deliver a list of items Simpson was accused of taking from the hotel room, raising the possibility that they could be sold to pay off the judgment.
"He's ordered to pay us millions of dollars," Goldman's sister, Kim Goldman, said Wednesday on NBC. "If he went to Vegas to go collect on those things so we wouldn't, there's some irony in that."
She also said she felt some satisfaction with Simpson's arrest.
"I'm not going to lie to you, I do feel a little bit of elation to see him in handcuffs," she said. "I hope that in some way the pressure that we put on him for the last 13 years drove him to this."
Two other defendants, Walter Alexander, 46, and Clarence Stewart, 53, were arrested and released pending court appearances. Stewart turned in some of the missing goods and Alexander agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, authorities said. A fourth suspect, Michael McClinton, 49, of Las Vegas, surrendered to police Tuesday.
Police were seeking two other suspects, whom they had not identified.