The Man Who Could Put O.J. Away for Life

Las Vegas, Nevada - There is probably no American alive whose murder acquittal has been met with such widespread national skepticism as O.J. Simpson.

Now all eyes are on Clark County District Attorney David Roger, the man whose impending prosecution of Simpson could put the former football legend in prison for life, on a battery of felony charges ranging from kidnapping and burglary to assault with a deadly weapon.

While it remains unclear how strong a case the prosecutor's office has against Simpson, by most accounts Roger is up to the job.

"He's had a long and distinguished career with the [prosecutor's] office and enjoys a well-deserved reputation for being meticulous and well-prepared," said Michael Davidson, a former Clark County assistant district attorney who ran unsuccessfully against Roger for the top spot in the district attorney's office in 2001. "I would be surprised to see what happened in the original case against Simpson repeats itself here in Las Vegas."

Another former Clark County assistant district attorney said that local police surely had the failed Los Angeles prosecution of Simpson for the alleged murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman at the forefront of their minds as they investigated and built the case against Simpson.

"The [Las Vegas] Metropolitan Police Department is absolutely dead set on not being made to look like the LAPD," said the veteran attorney, who spoke to ABC News on the condition of anonymity. "Everyone here knows … they're going to make sure this case is handled properly … I'd bet you anything that the police got the D.A.'s office involved early in the process."

Las Vegas defense lawyer David Chesnoff, who has represented tennis player Andre Agassi, boxer Mike Tyson and Martha Stewart, expressed confidence in Roger, calling him a "straight shooter who is always very prepared, meticulous and has a great grasp of the facts."

"I think they're pursuing [the Simpson case] very seriously and being very careful," Chesnoff said. "I can promise you this," he said with a mischievous smile, "David would never end up taking a job with 'Entertainment Tonight' like [former Los Angeles prosecutor] Marcia Clark."

But not everybody feels the district attorney is being reasonable. Loyola law professor Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor, questioned the severity of the charges.

"They're certainly loading up the charges against Simpson," she said Tuesday. "It strikes me that they are just lowering the boom as hard and as fast as they can. And I'm a former prosecutor!"

New York defense lawyer Jeff Lichtman, who represented John Gotti Jr., another notorious defendant, suggested that what he feels is a heavy-handed prosecution is motivated to some degree by the Brentwood, Calif., murders.

"Despise O.J. all you want, but this Las Vegas court and these prosecutors should not be permitted to use this present case in order to achieve justice for Nicole's murder," he said.

Many in the legal community here say Roger's election as district attorney was spurred in no small part by his conviction of two people for the 1998 murder of casino magnate Lonnie Theodore "Ted" Binion, whose family owned the legendary Binion's Horseshoe casino, one of the oldest gambling houses in Las Vegas.

Roger won murder convictions against Sandy Murphy, Binion's former beauty-queen girlfriend, and her one-time lover, Rick Tabish, in one of the most sensational trials the city had ever seen.

Roger argued that the pair had drugged and suffocated Binion and then attempted to steal his $7 million stash of silver bullion and rare coins, buried in a concrete vault in the desert 60 miles southwest of Las Vegas. The case and the May 2000 conviction drew national attention. Roger, then a deputy assistant district attorney, became a household name throughout Clark County.

The murder convictions were overturned in 2003, however, and the pair was acquitted of the murder charges, although felony burglary charges were upheld. Roger declined interview requests from ABC News.

"He has a very meticulous nature," said Peter Christiansen, a local lawyer who was the best man at Roger's wedding to his wife, Susan, who is currently a Clark County deputy assistant district attorney working under her husband in the criminal division. "He doesn't leave any stone unturned and he's a very good chess player, a very good strategist."

Referring to the Binion case, Christiansen said that Roger "took an extraordinarily difficult and complicated case to prove and … obtained a conviction that later, two very capable prosecutors couldn't repeat."

For 15 years before his election as district attorney, Roger worked in the Major Violators Bureau, rising to chief deputy assistant district attorney of that unit. He is past president of the Nevada District Attorney's Association, according to a spokesman for Roger's office.

He graduated from California Western School of Law in 1986, according to a biography posted on the Clark County District Attorney's office Web site.

Beside his picture on the Web site is the Latin phrase "Salus populi supremo lex esto," which translates to "the safety of the people is the highest law."

ABC News' Lauren Pearle contributed to this report.

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