Now facing a possible life sentence, O.J. Simpson makes his first court appearance today since his arrest Sunday after on armed robbery charges in Las Vegas. His attorneys will ask for bail, while prosecutors are expected to argue that Simpson poses a flight risk.
The former gridiron great was charged Tuesday with 10 felony counts and one gross misdemeanor by the Clark County district attorney's office in connection with the now-infamous armed robbery of several memorabilia dealers at a hotel room here last Thursday.
Simpson was charged with two counts each of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and first degree kidnapping with the use of a deadly weapon. The DA charged Simpson and three other men with trying to kidnap memorabilia dealers Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong in a Las Vegas hotel room, and of using physical force, "or the immediate threat of such force," against them.
At one point, while "one or more of his confederates possessing, displaying and/or pointing one or more handguns," Simpson ripped Fromong's phone out of his hand, according to the complaint.
A fourth suspect in the case, Michael McClinton, 49, of Las Vegas, a man police describe as "a key player" in the alleged theft was arrested Tuesday evening and is also in custody.
The litany of charges and Simpson's no-bail status shocked criminal defense lawyers in Las Vegas, who said that the treatment was connected to Simpson's celebrity. Simpson could face life in prison on just the kidnapping charge.
"This is way over the top," said attorney Chris Rasmussen, who has secured bail for hundreds of defendants charged with more serious crimes. "If this was a regular case, this would be gross misdemeanor with probation, maybe five years' supervision. We have guys who shoot up 7-11s and they get out the next day."
Amy Chelini, a former Clark County prosecutor, was also surprised by the decision to deny bail. "I can't recall the last time that someone was denied bail," she explained. "Even the most serious charges, except for capital murder, get bail. I have a lot of clients who are from out of state and get bail. After all, a lot of people who come to this town get in trouble," she said.
Rasmussen said the complaint was being used to force Simpson into a plea deal with prosecutors. "Kidnapping alone is a 10-to-life sentence, and they're using that as a hammer over your head to pressure you to take a deal."
He dismissed Chief Judge Douglas Smith's rationale for denying bail, which was that Simpson represented a flight risk and lacked any ties to Las Vegas. "Probably 40 percent of our clients live out of state, go back home and come back for their trials," Rasmussen said, adding that he's representing a seven-time felon accused of robbing an auto store, and an alleged sex assailant, who both live out of state and who both made bail.
But Simpson spent his second day in a 7-foot by 14-foot cell at the Clark County Detention Center. One of 36 other inmates in a unit, Simpson is given three to four hours of free time while his fellow inmates stay locked in their cells. So far, prison officials say Simpson has been cooperative, asked for a pair of reading glasses and was given a Bible and a book, "The Purpose-Driven Life," to read.