Lawyers move to seize Simpson deal money
EmptyLawyers for the family of Ronald Goldman are strategizing about how to go after any money made by O.J. Simpson from his upcoming book and Fox TV interview to satisfy the multimillion-dollar civil judgment against the ex-football star.
"To my knowledge, it would not be exempt from our efforts to collect it," attorney Peter Haven of Los Angeles' Musick Peeler & Garrett said of whatever advance Simpson was paid and any royalties he may be entitled to from book sales. "We're in the process of figuring out how to proceed."
The book, "If I Did It," discusses hypothetically how Simpson would have committed the killings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Haven represents Goldman's father, Fred Goldman.
Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of the murders. A civil jury later found him liable in a wrongful death case filed by the victims' families, but attempts to collect the $33.5 million award have been largely unsuccessful. Haven estimates the Goldman family's share of that judgment alone (about $19 million) has ballooned over the last decade to $38 million including interest.
Beverly Hills attorney Ira Friedman, who represented the Brown family in the civil suit and facilitated the auction of Simpson's belongings, including his Heisman trophy, to help satisfy the judgment, said it is possible to collect Simpson's profits from the book.
The first task, Friedman said, is determining whether Simpson received an advance on the book.
"By the time the book comes out, he's had an advance," said Friedman, who no longer represents the Browns. "You can subpoena the records of the publisher and get a copy of the contract."
The next challenge would be determining at what point Simpson will receive money based on book sales, and convincing a court to enforce the California judgment against that revenue.
Under the U.S. Constitution, states must give full faith and credit to judgments from other states, Friedman said, so the family would have to file a notice of entry of a sister state judgment in the state the book publisher is based.
"You'd have to get an order signed (instructing) that the publisher pay the money to the creditor rather than the debtor," he said.
Haven, the Goldmans' lawyer, did not indicate how he might attempt to enforce the judgment.
New York attorney John Q. Kelly, who represents Simpson's children, Sydney, 21, and Justin, 18, on behalf of the estate of their mother, also said he is looking into revenue from the book.
"Ironically, if I find that he's done something in the kids' interest, I wouldn't do anything," Kelly said. "If he put it in a house or part of a trust in the kids' name or a joint account with the kids or joint tenants in an account, why would I get involved in going after it?"
He added that Lou Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson's father, is the executor of the estate and makes all decisions involving the children.
On Nov. 27 and 29, Fox will air a two-part interview with Simpson by Judith Regan of ReganBooks, which is publishing "If I Did It." ReganBooks is a division of New York-based HarperCollins Publishers, which, like Fox, is owned by News Corp.
Regan has refused to say what Simpson is being paid for the book, which is being offered for sale at $16.47. She said Simpson came to her with the idea.
Yale Galanter, Simpson's Florida-based attorney, said he does not know how much Simpson was paid and did not negotiate Simpson's contract. Galanter said he was unaware of the book and interview until news surfaced Tuesday.
Of the Goldman family's efforts to collect on their judgment via book sales, Galanter said, "They can certainly try."
Haven, along with Indiana attorney Jonathan Polak of Sommer Barnard, lost an effort last month to convince a California judge to turn over Simpson's publicity rights to help satisfy the judgment.
Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Linda Lefkowitz rejected the petition, determining that such a move would harm a living celebrity's privacy rights "which mitigate against court-enforced transfer of the (publicity) right to obtain commercial profit form his or her likeness."
Haven said sources have told him the Florida-based Simpson has created "an intricate system to avoid judgment collection."
"I'm told he has offshore accounts that are difficult to get to," Haven said. "I'm not sure if all of that is true, but I expect it is."
Galanter said that was not accurate "in any way, shape or form."
"The whole idea that Simpson is doing something to try to hide something or be surreptitious about something is, quite frankly, a crock of crap, and I don't use those words lightly," he said.
Several Brown and Goldman family members have expressed outrage over the book.
Nicole Brown Simpson's sister, Denise Brown, accused Regan of "promoting the wrongdoing of criminals" and commercializing abuse.
Fred Goldman issued a statement through Polak saying the public should "shun" Simpson and "all those who help glorify him."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.