- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Since O.J. Simpson left the celebrity enclave of Brentwood, Calif., after his acquittal on murder charges, he has escaped much of the media scrutiny over the last few years by living under the Florida sunshine.
VIDEO: Fair treatment for O.J. Simpson?

Simpson has been an uneasy presence among the famous, rich and tan on Miami’s South Beach, where he has been collecting his National Football League pension, playing golf, raising his children and mingling. But Leslie Abravanel, who writes the Scene in the Tropics column for the Miami Herald, said the Juice met his perfect match there.

“O.J.’s presence has always been unsettling, but again, as they say, this is a sunny city for shady people, so in a twisted way, he’s fit right in,” she said.

Simpson remains jailed without bond in Las Vegas. He is expected to be charged tomorrow with seven felonies and one gross misdemeanor, the district attorney said yesterday.

Those charges stem from police reports that say Simpson entered a casino hotel room with two men and threatened two others in the room. Police say 46-year-old Walter Alexander, a golfing friend of Simpson’s, took a gun to the Thursday night fracas, thus supporting armed-robbery charges against Simpson even if the former football star was not himself armed.

Late yesterday, the third suspect surrendered to authorities. According to Las Vegas police, 53-year-old Clarence Stewart lived at one of the homes that police searched early Sunday to recover some of the memorabilia, including autographed footballs.

Simpson claimed the men in the room were trying to fence stolen property that is rightly his. The goods, which Simpson took on his way out of the casino, reportedly included the olive suit he wore as the jury verdict was announced in 1995 as well as a video of his first wedding.
VIDEO: Audiotape of Simpson hotel heist

In an interview before his arrest, Simpson said the items were stolen and were sold to memorabilia collectors to resell on the black market. He set up a sting to get them back, he said, adding that nothing violent took place. Simpson’s Miami-based attorney Yale Galanter told Fox News that his client is not guilty of these charges.

While this latest police incident is the most dramatic and the charges the most serious since his acquittal on murder charges in the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend Ron Goldman, it is not the first for Simpson. In Florida, he has had several minor scrapes with the law, starting with a 2001 arrest for road rage. All charges were dropped.

In 2002, Simpson was fined $130 for speeding on his 30-foot powerboat through a no-wake zone designed to protect Florida manatees. In 2003, Simpson drew headlines again when his daughter Sydney, then 17, called 911 claiming she was abused after an argument with her father. No charges were filed.

Miss Simpson, who graduated from the exclusive Gulliver Preparatory School (alums include singer Enrique Iglesias and presidential nephew George P. Bush), was arrested after a confrontation with police after a fight outside a high school basketball game in 2005 and did 50 hours of community service.

In 2004, Simpson paid $33,678 in a federal court judgment won by DirecTV, the satellite television network, which claimed he electronically pirated the company’s broadcast signal.

Earlier this year, Simpson was forced to turn over a manuscript for a book he had worked on, titled “If I Did It,” which was released last week by the Goldman family to satisfy a $38 million wrongful-death judgment against Simpson in his civil trial. The family of Mr. Goldman retitled the book “If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer,” with the word “if” on the cover in a tiny typeface; it’s been a No. 1 Amazon best-seller.

The foibles seem hardly a surprise to those who have watched Simpson go on with his famous life after pledging publicly to find the real killers in the death of his ex-wife and her friend. Miss Abravanel said when Simpson first came to Miami seven years ago, he went out on the party scene constantly and made the rounds of such popular restaurants as the Forge.

“I’ll never forget seeing him ogle Paris Hilton and Tara Reid at the Astor Hotel about four years ago,” she recalled. “It was as blatant as it got.”

As time went on, she said, even the “morbid novelty” wore off.

“No one shunned him, but as one business owner told me: ‘He hasn’t done anything to me so how could I refuse his business?’ ”

But in at least one place, his presence had a negative effect, said Miss Abravanel, who recounted all of her own unseemly O.J. encounters in her Herald blog (https://blogs. herald.com/scene_in_the_ tropics).

One night at Prime One Twelve, easily one of the beach’s hottest and chicest locales, actor Mark Wahlberg was dining with a pal when his friend got upset and created a scene, demanding that Simpson, who also was eating there, be kicked out, she said. That didn’t happen, but such a scenario later caught up with him in May when a Louisville steakhouse owner, on the eve of the Kentucky Derby, asked Simpson to leave the restaurant, drawing public praise for his candor.

“I didn’t want to serve him because of my convictions of what he’s done to those families,” restaurateur Jeff Ruby told Fox News. “The way he continues to torture the lives of those families … with his behavior, attitude and conduct.”

Still, for some it seems, Simpson retains his celebrity power.

One mother of two children who lives near Simpson’s upscale Pinecrest neighborhood in South Dade, where he bought his 4,343-square-foot home in 2000 for $545,000, said she sees him out all the time, getting gas and dining at local restaurants, including Flanigan’s, a local restaurant, where his presence was welcomed by star-struck diners.

“I was aghast at the way people flocked, stared, shook hands with him and asked for pictures and autographs,” said the mother, a former TV producer. “He was there with a small group of people and he welcomed the attention. From what I witnessed, all the attention was positive. People were really star-struck.”

Another South Miami resident who lives near Simpson remembers seeing him at the Lots of Lox deli in Palmetto Bay. The man said a Little League team was there, many of them taking photos with Simpson along with their parents, who were shaking his hand and acting cordially.

“One of those guys gave O.J. his business card saying, ‘Give me a call if you need anything,’ ” the man recalled. “People were saying: ‘How ya doin, O.J.?’ and he would reply, ‘Oh, my knee is really stiff. I’m becoming an old man.’ ”

The mom, who has a daughter and son about the same ages as Simpson’s were at the time of his ex-wife’s killing, said she is shocked by the ongoing adulation.

“To me, it’s amazing to see how people react to this guy,” she said. “I think it fuels his narcissism. When you see how people react to him, he believes he is untouchable, I think.”

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