O.J. Released on $125,000 Bail

Judge orders Simpson to surrender his passport, stay away from witnesses.


Sept. 19, 2007 — -- O.J. Simpson was released from a Las Vegas jail Wednesday afternoon on $125,000 bail, with a line of reporters behind him and news helicopters circling above.

A judge set bail Wednesday morning for Simpson, who had been held in the Clark County Detention Center since his arrest on Sunday in connection with his alleged role in the armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in a casino hotel room.

Also on Wednesday, one of the memorabilia dealers, who is expected to be a key witness in the case, was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service at the Luxor Hotel.

Alfred Beardsley was wanted on a California warrant for a parole violation, the Marshals' Service said. He was being held at the Las Vegas jail pending his extradition to California.

In front of a packed courtroom Wednesday morning, Judge Joe M. Bonaventure ordered Simpson to surrender his passport to his attorney and to avoid contact with the accusers and witnesses in the case. Simpson's attorneys and the Las Vegas district attorney said they had agreed on the terms and amount of Simpson's bail before the hearing.

In a scene reminiscent of Simpson's storied Los Angeles criminal trial almost 15 years ago, Simpson walked into the Las Vegas courtroom, handcuffed, in a blue prison uniform surrounded by guards. Seated behind him in the courtroom were his daughter Arnell Simpson, his girlfriend of seven years, Christie Prody, his sister and brother-in-law, the prosecutor in his 1995 trial Marcia Clark and a slew of reporters, many of whom were witnesses to the spectacle of his 1995 trial.

Asked whether he understood the terms of his bail, Simpson said, "yes, sir" in a quiet, scratchy voice. He didn't enter a plea or speak to the courtroom audience. His lawyer later said Simpson would enter a plea of not guilty, and that his client planned to return to his home in Miami shortly.

After the hearing, Simpson's attorneys left the courthouse to meet a teeming throng of reporters and photographers.

"We expect Mr. Simpson to be processed and released fairly quickly," one of Simpson's attorneys, Yale Galanter, said at a news conference. "He's relieved. This has been a very harrowing experience for him."

"He just wants to get home and be with his family," said Galanter, who called the bail "extremely reasonable."

According to the manager of Las Vegas bail bond company "You Ring, We Spring," which posted bond for Simpson, the company received calls from a number of people, "some strangers and some friends," wanting to assist in posting Simpson's bail.

"They wanted to donate to an O.J. (bail) fund," manager Bill Fineout told ABC News.

Simpson and three other men face 11 charges, including kidnapping and robbery with a deadly weapon, that could send the former football star to prison for the rest of his life. Two sports memorabilia dealers have accused Simpson and several of his associates of robbing them at gunpoint inside their hotel room at the Palace Station Casino in Las Vegas.

Prosecutors do not claim that Simpson was armed, but according to a recently released police report, the dealers Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong said that two of the men with Simpson brandished semiautomatic guns during the incident.

Simpson has said that he was only retrieving memorabilia that he said was stolen from him.

Police say that Simpson went to the hotel room on the pretext of brokering a deal with Beardsley and Fromong to buy the memorabilia. Fromong and Beardsley have said that the deal was arranged by Thomas Riccio, an auction-house owner, and that they didn't know that Simpson was one of the supposed buyers. Riccio recorded the confrontation and an earlier conversation he had with Simpson.

On the recording of his conversation with Simpson, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News, Simpson can be heard saying he wanted to recover his memorabilia in Nevada, away from the family of Ron Goldman, whom Simpson was accused of killing in 1994. Simpson was acquitted in the deaths of Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, but was ordered to pay about $38 million to their families in a wrongful death lawsuit, according to the Goldman family's attorney.

"I'm going to show up with a bunch of the boys, and take my [expletive] and they can't do nothing about it," Simpson says on the tape.

Riccio told ABC's Jim Avila that he had no idea guns would be present at the confrontation.

"There was no real plan. There was some memorabilia that belonged to him that was stolen and he was just gonna go pick it up," Riccio said.

"O.J. was gonna identify the items as being his, and tell 'em he wanted 'em back or we were gonna call the police."

But, according to police reports, Simpson and the other men burst into the room and the collectors were ordered at gunpoint to hand over several items, including football-game balls signed by Simpson, framed awards and baseballs autographed by Pete Rose, which they said were worth as much as $100,000.

Beardsley told police that one of the men with Simpson brandished a pistol and searched him.

"I'm a cop and you're lucky this ain't L.A. or you'd be dead," the man said, according to the report.

Simpson yelled at Beardsley, according to the report, saying, "I thought you were my friend," and "give me my s--t back."

"O.J. was enraged. He wasn't calm like he said he was gonna be," Riccio told ABC. "It was just a crazy scene and one of the guys took out a gun eventually."

Two defendants Walter Alexander, 46, and Clarence Stewart, 53, were arrested and released pending court appearances. A fourth suspect, Michael McClinton, 49, of Las Vegas, surrendered to police Tuesday. Alexander, Stewart, McClinton and Simpson were all charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit robbery, kidnapping with a deadly weapon, burglary with a deadly weapon, robbery with a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, coercion with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Police were seeking two other unidentified accomplices.

A hearing in Simpson's case was scheduled for the week of Oct. 22, though Galanter said he didn't expect the case to go to trial until next year.

With reporting by Chris Francescani in Las Vegas

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