Witness says Simpson told him to bring 'heat'
EmptyLAS VEGAS -- In a day of dazzling courtroom drama, O.J. Simpson's one-time pal glared at him across the courtroom Tuesday and calmly gave testimony that could send him to jail for years. Minutes later, Simpson's lawyer accused the friend of being a pimp and a liar.
Walter Alexander, who said he had been a golfing buddy of Simpson for many years, wound up at times in a shouting match with defense attorney Yale Galanter, who elicited the admission that Alexander offered at one point to slant his testimony in Simpson's favor if he was paid.
"I really felt that he was set up," Alexander said during a hearing to determine if Simpson should be tried on armed robbery and other charges. "So I felt like I could lean toward that angle rather than telling the exact truth."
Alexander said he suggested to Simpson's friend Tom Scotto that Scotto pay for his bail and legal defense after he was charged with robbery and other crimes during a confrontation with memorabilia dealers at the Palace Station Hotel-Casino. Alexander said he was never paid.
"So truth got left at the door because your testimony is for sale?" asked Galanter.
"I told the truth," the witness said glumly.
Alexander's direct testimony under prosecution questioning was the strongest arrow in the prosecution's quiver so far at a preliminary hearing to determine if Simpson and two other men will stand trial on armed robbery, kidnapping and other charges stemming from the Sept. 13 incident.
Alexander and Michael McClinton, who also testified against Simpson Tuesday, struck deals with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to lesser charges, as did Charles Cashmore, who testified against Simpson last week.
McClinton, a security specialist who said he was recruited by Simpson to carry a gun to the confrontation, said Simpson also told him before they entered the hotel room, "Show them your weapon and look menacing."
On cross-examination, Simpson attorney Gabriel Grasso pointed out that during an extensive interview with police McClinton never told them Simpson said to bring a gun.
McClinton also acknowledged he was doing much of the yelling during the confrontation, and at one point shouted, "If you were in Los Angeles you would be laying on the floor."
He denied, however, that he waved his gun around, saying he simply held it in the air. One of the dealers testified previously that it was pointed at his face.
Alexander testified that he had just arrived in Las Vegas for Scotto's wedding when he was summoned to Simpson's room at the Palms Hotel-Casino. There, he said, the former football star asked for his help in recovering memorabilia he said had been stolen from him.
"He said he needed a couple of guys to watch his back," said Alexander, who depicted Simpson as the mastermind of a plan to recover his possessions by setting up a sting operation in which two memorabilia dealers who had the items would think they were meeting with a potential buyer.
"After he asked me if I could watch his back, he leaned forward and it was kind of like, 'Hey, do you think you can get some heat?"' Alexander said. "'Just in case things go wrong, can you bring some heat?"'
He said McClinton volunteered to supply guns and Simpson said they probably would be needed only to show dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley "we mean business."
Simpson, seated with his lawyers, appeared to shake his head in disagreement as Alexander spoke.
Sitting immediately behind him was Scotto and his wife.
Before they entered the hotel room, Alexander said, Simpson told McClinton to draw his gun.
When McClinton waved it around and began shouting at the dealers, Alexander added, everyone in the room became unnerved.
"Mr. Simpson told him to put that thing down, like he was waving it too much," Alexander said. "He said, 'Chill out."'
When he saw McClinton waving the gun and others in Simpson's party scooping up hundreds of items that had been laid out on a bed, Alexander said, he thought to himself, "Man, you're in trouble."
The dealers testified earlier that the group not only took Simpson items but also lithographs of football great Joe Montana and memorabilia signed by baseball stars Duke Snider and Pete Rose.
After they had carried off everything, Alexander said he, Simpson and some of the others attended a pre-wedding dinner for Scotto, where he said Simpson joked about the encounter.
"He said. 'Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas but not if you're O.J. Simpson.," Alexander said, adding Simpson predicted the episode would "be on every major network tomorrow."
When he asked Simpson to help him if he was arrested, Alexander said, his friend told him to simply get out of town and he would be all right. He was subsequently arrested at the airport as he tried to leave Las Vegas.
Alexander's cross-examination was hostile from the beginning, with Galanter accusing him of being angry with Simpson and trying to get even by lying in his testimony.
"I was upset that he'd gotten me in all this trouble and he didn't seem to care about what happened to me," Alexander said. "I was upset he wasn't willing to pay for this trouble he got me into."
He insisted, however, that he hadn't lied.
Then the lawyer sprang a surprise on the witness, showing him a printout from a Web site in which he was involved in selling the sexual services of women.
At first Alexander denied it was his Web site, saying his wife may have run it. But he eventually acknowledged he was involved.
Galanter asked if Alexander had ever had a different occupation than real estate. He said he had been involved in something "I don't care to talk about" but insisted that was at least 10 years ago.
"Have you ever sold flesh?" asked Galanter.
"No, " Alexander replied.
"Ever been a pimp?"
That question led to loud objections by prosecutors.
After that line of questioning had gone of for some 40 minutes, the judge cut it off. At one point the witness himself complained that the questioning was irrelevant, prompting many in the courtroom, including Simpson, to laugh.
After Galanter concluded, lawyers for co-defendants Ehrlich and Stewart also cross-examined the witness and noted that none of the defendants sitting in court carried any weapons during the confrontation but that two of those who received plea deals from prosecutors had.
Simpson, 60, of Miami, and Stewart and Ehrlich, both 53, face 12 criminal charges. A conviction on the kidnapping count could result in a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole. An armed robbery conviction could mean mandatory prison time.
Justice of the Peace Joe M. Bonaventure will decide at the conclusion of the hearing whether there is enough evidence to send them to trial.