Whether the witnesses prove vulnerable on the stand "depends on how well they perform, how sincere they come across," said Louis Palazzo, a criminal defense lawyer in Las Vegas. "I think it can go either way whether [the judge] will embrace their testimony or hold it against the prosecutor."
Cashmore, Alexander and McClinton cut deals with the prosecution, and are awaiting sentencing. The others were charged with 11 felonies and one gross misdemeanor, including robbery, burglary and first-degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon. The kidnapping charge carries a possible sentence of 10 years to life in prison.
Prosecutors will try to show at today's hearing that there is probable cause to believe that the defendants committed those crimes.
Riccio has said that Fromong contacted him about Beardsley's interest in selling the Simpson memorabilia, and that Fromong then talked to Simpson about helping the former football great get back what he believed were stolen items.
About three weeks before the alleged hotel room heist, Riccio told the FBI in Los Angeles about his plan to confront a man who had Simpson's memorabilia, and to film the confrontation. The agents advised Riccio to consult a lawyer about the plan's legality. It's unclear how this revelation may affect the case, but Palazzo and other defense lawyers believe that it may support Simpson's defense.
"I think it speaks to what [Simpson's] intent was," said Palazzo, who added that it gives "some degree of credence and veracity to his claim that he was trying to take goods that were taken from him unlawfully."
Riccio, who has been granted immunity in exchange for his cooperation, and may be an important witness for the prosecution, also has a criminal past. According to public records, he has been convicted of at least three felonies, including arson, felony grand theft and receipt of stolen property.
He also planted a recording device in the hotel room where the alleged heist occurred, and then sold the recordings to media outlets. Several hours of the recordings were turned over to the police, and prosecutors may play a portion of them during the preliminary hearing.
If the judge finds probable cause at the hearing, then the case will be bound over for trial to Las Vegas District Court. Within a week or two, the District Court judge will hold an arraignment, at which Simpson and the two other defendants will plead guilty or not guilty to the charges.
After the arraignment, defense lawyers will probably file a writ of habeas corpus — a last-ditch attempt to argue that the defendants should be released because prosecutors failed to show probable cause. The writ is unlikely to be granted.
If the defendants plead not guilty, the judge will set a trial date. The defense will probably waive its right to go to trial within 60 days, because it will want more time to prepare its case.
With reporting by Lauren Pearle and Scott Michels