O.J. pal describes alleged extortion by witnesses

By: AP
By: AP
O.J. Simpson

(AP Photo/Ethan Miller, Pool)

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- O.J. Simpson's defense rested Wednesday without calling him to the stand in his armed robbery and kidnapping trial, but not before jurors heard a tape of a key prosecution witness offering to change his testimony for money.

A close friend of the former football star also testified that the witness, Walter Alexander, and another former Simpson co-defendant tried to extort $50,000 from him and Simpson shortly after the hotel-room confrontation at the heart of the case.

Thomas Scotto, whose Sept. 15, 2007, wedding had brought Simpson to Las Vegas as best man, said Alexander and Michael McClinton demanded the money at a pre-wedding barbecue at Simpson co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart's house.

Scotto was not with Simpson, Stewart, Alexander, McClinton and two other men when they allegedly robbed and held two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel room Sept. 13, 2007.

Scotto testified that McClinton "basically said that this is going bad, they're going to get in trouble, they're not going to go to jail, they're going to do whatever they have to do to get out of this trouble, and in order for them to do that, either from me or from O.J., we better come up with $50,000 or else."

Scotto also testified, "Michael McClinton said, 'You know me, Tom, but you don't know me that well. I'm a street (expletive) and I'll shoot everybody up.'"

Scotto said that Alexander left a telephone voicemail months later for him saying, "Pay me, I'll help our friend," and "I can do quite a bit." By that point Alexander already had testified against Simpson at a preliminary hearing.

Scotto said neither he nor Simpson paid McClinton or Alexander any money.

Jurors heard the voicemail message, which Scotto said he turned over to Las Vegas police several days after he received it. But under questioning by Clark County District Attorney David Roger, he acknowledged that he didn't tell police detectives about the alleged shake-down at the barbecue. He blamed investigators for not calling him about it.

Roger also accused Scotto of threatening during a conversation with Stewart in January to take out a contract on Alexander's life.

"That's ridiculous," Scotto said.

When asked by Judge Jackie Glass what evidence he had to back up the claim, Roger said only that he had a good-faith belief that it was true.

Alexander, 47, of Mesa, Ariz., testified Sept. 24 that Simpson told him and McClinton to carry guns when they went with Simpson to take back allegedly stolen items from two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas casino hotel room. He said he asked Simpson for money to hire a lawyer.

Scotto's name is heard on audio recordings of the alleged armed robbery in a Palace Station casino hotel room. Scotto also served as go-between and banker for Simpson after Simpson's Sept. 16, 2007, arrest, and following his re-arrest in January when he was accused of violating terms of his bail release.

Simpson and Stewart have pleaded not guilty to 12 criminal charges, including armed robbery and kidnapping. Each man could face five years to life in prison if convicted in the Sept. 13, 2007, confrontation.

The prosecution rested Monday, and the judge has said closing arguments could come as early as Thursday. The jury would then begin deliberations.

Simpson's defense rested after calling Scotto. Stewart's lawyers said they expect to call several witnesses, including Simpson's daughter, Arnelle Simpson, 39. Arnelle Simpson was with O.J. Simpson when he met with Alexander and McClinton in Simpson's room at the Palms resort before the alleged armed robbery at the Palace Station casino hotel, several miles away.

Stewart's lawyers said they haven't decided whether their client will testify.

Alexander and McClinton pleaded guilty to lesser charges and testified against Simpson.

McClinton, 50, of Las Vegas, was the last prosecution witness Monday. He told the jury he brought a gun at Simpson's request and displayed it near his chest during the six-minute confrontation with memorabilia dealers Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong.

Simpson claims he never asked anyone to bring guns and never saw guns in the room. Stewart maintains he relied on Simpson's assertions that he was going to the Palace Station to retrieve personal items that had been stolen from him.

Associated Press Writer Ken Ritter contributed to this report.

(This version corrects that Scotto was not Simpson defense's only witness.)

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