- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 20, 2008

LAS VEGAS (AP) | Jurors in O.J. Simpson‘s armed robbery and kidnapping trial on Friday heard a recording of the football star angrily accusing two memorabilia dealers of stealing his mementos and saying, “Don’t let nobody out of this room.”

On the witness stand introducing the audio was Thomas Riccio, the collectibles dealer who arranged the meeting at the Palace Station casino hotel room, made the secret recording and testified that he never expected what happened.

“The guy with the bald head, [Michael] McClinton, pulled out a gun. And it got crazy from there,” Mr. Riccio said.

Asked what he was thinking, he said, “This is overkill - big time overkill. They didn’t have to do this.”

McClinton, an original defendant who made a plea bargain and agreed to testify against Simpson, is the only participant identified so far as having a gun in the room.

“I never at any time wanted a gun in my room. I am anti-gun,” Mr. Riccio said.

He described McClinton as “hopping around with the gun” and said, “Maybe he was hyped up on something.”

Listening through headphones, the jurors heard McClinton order people to bag the memorabilia spread out on the bed.

Throughout the confrontation, memorabilia dealer Alfred Beardsley kept trying to curry favor with Simpson, saying, “I don’t have a problem with you, man. Are you mad at me?”

Mr. Beardsley later called 911 and reported he had been robbed at gunpoint by Simpson and a group of “thugs.” He also threatened to call the news media, saying they would arrive faster.

“O.J.’s going to get arrested over this,” Mr. Beardsley declared several times.

The other memorabilia dealer in the room, Bruce Fromong, was heard saying he was going to his truck to get a gun.

As a result of the Sept. 13, 2007, confrontation, Simpson and co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart face 12 charges, including kidnapping, armed robbery, coercion and assault with a deadly weapon. They have pleaded not guilty.

Most of what the jurors heard was hours of small talk between Mr. Riccio and Mr. Beardsley before the confrontation.

Mr. Riccio was recorded repeatedly saying that the “buyer” he was bringing to the hotel wanted only “personal stuff.”

When Simpson arrived at the hotel room with five other men, Mr. Riccio said the plan he had so carefully devised fell apart.

“Simpson walked in and went right to the front of Fromong and Beardsley and started scolding them. He just stood there and yelled and yelled at them,” Mr. Riccio testified.

“He said, ‘I know you guys. You stole my stuff,’” Mr. Riccio recalled.

Mr. Riccio recounted that Simpson stressed, “I only want my stuff. Stuff that’s not mine, we’ll give back” as the other sports memorabilia were scooped up in the frenzy.

The start of testimony was delayed when Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass secretly told the jury to arrive early and went with them on a bus to the hotel to view the room. Simpson did not make the trip, but his lawyers and Mr. Stewart did.

c Associated Press writer Ken Ritter contributed to this report.

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