Simpson ordered to stand trial

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LAS VEGAS -- O.J. Simpson must face trial on kidnapping, armed robbery and other charges stemming from a suspected sports memorabilia heist, a justice of the peace ruled Wednesday.

Defense attorneys had argued during a preliminary hearing that the case was based on the accounts of con artists and crooks, and they asked for the charges to be dropped.

Justice of the Peace Joe M. Bonaventure ruled all charges in the 12-count complaint would remain against Simpson and co-defendants Clarence "C.J." Stewart and Charles "Charlie" Ehrlich.

"This is what we expected," Simpson told The Associated Press before he left the courtroom. "If I have any disappointment it's that I wish a jury was here. As always, I rely on the jury system."

Kidnapping convictions could result in a life sentence with possibility of parole. Armed robbery convictions would require some time in prison.

The defendants were ordered to arraignment on Nov. 28.

The case stemmed from a Sept. 13 confrontation in a casino hotel room where Simpson and a group of men are accused of stealing items from two sports memorabilia dealers.

Bonaventure ruled hours after listening to 3 1/2 days of testimony by witnesses.

Simpson's lawyer, Gabriel Grasso, argued it was unclear whether prosecutors considered as kidnapping the act of luring two sports memorabilia dealers to a hotel room -- or whether the charge was based on a confrontation that followed.

"This is clearly overcharging," he said.

Simpson, 60, has maintained that no guns were displayed during the confrontation, that he never asked anyone to bring guns and that he did not know anyone had guns. He has said he intended only to retrieve items that had been stolen from him by a former agent, including the suit he wore the day he was acquitted of murder in 1995 in the slayings of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Simpson and the other defendants did not testify in their own defense at the hearing.

In their closing arguments, attorneys for Stewart and Ehrlich questioned the credibility of the prosecution's witnesses. But prosecutor Chris Owens said the witnesses corroborated each other's stories and recordings, video and photographs supported the case.

A defense lawyer contended that the case was based on the accounts of "crackheads and groupies and pimps and purveyors of stolen merchandise and gun carriers and con artists and crooks."

"These guys are bad. The court can't ascribe any credibility to what came out of their mouths," said attorney John Moran Jr., who represents Ehrlich.

"Every witness up there was looking to sell testimony and make money off of this case," Moran said.

Owens offered no defense of their character but said, "It's not like the state went out and found the witnesses. These are people aligned with O.J. Simpson. These are the people he surrounds himself with."

Earlier, sports memorabilia dealer Alfred Beardsley, 45, testified that he tried to make clear to an "irritated" Simpson during the Sept. 13 confrontation that he had not stolen items from him.

When the men came in the room, "somebody yelled out, 'Police,"' Beardsley testified. "I was ordered to stand up. I was searched for weapons."

Beardsley testified that he did not steal any of the items and that he told Simpson the memorabilia came from a former partner of dealer Bruce Fromong. Simpson "felt violated and gave me a lecture," Beardsley said.

Beardsley said he was ordered to pack up the memorabilia, which had been laid out on a bed, and that the group left. He then called 911.

Under cross-examination by one of Simpson's lawyers, he blamed Simpson for the incident.

"Your client was foolish enough to let it happen," he said. "He was a high-profile person, and people were waiting for him to screw up. And he screwed up."

Michael "Spencer" McClinton testified Tuesday that Simpson asked him to bring guns and told him to use them to intimidate Beardsley and Fromong.

Simpson's golfing buddy, Walter "Goldie" Alexander, testified Tuesday that Simpson instructed McClinton to draw his weapon before the group entered the room at the Palace Station hotel-casino.

McClinton, Alexander and Charles Cashmore struck deals with prosecutors and agreed to testified against Simpson.
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