O.J. Simpson's final chapter: a prison sentence

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- During his trial for armed robbery and kidnapping, O.J. Simpson once sat in a courthouse hallway musing on what might have been: Before his arrest, he had considered moving to Las Vegas, where he liked the climate and the people he had met.

Now he could spend the rest of his life in Nevada - in prison.

The 61-year-old former football star, actor and TV pitchman will be sentenced Friday along with a co-defendant in a hearing that marks the end of Simpson's journey from fame and fortune to crime and punishment.

Although the case carries mandatory prison time, friend Tom Scotto said Simpson remains hopeful and positive after being convicted in October of all 12 charges that arose from a hotel-room confrontation with two sports-memorabilia dealers.

"He's doing better than I would be in this situation," said Scotto, who visited Simpson in jail and has spoken with him by phone. "He sounds good. He is upbeat. He's looking forward to the sentencing so he can get on with the appeal."

Scotto, who plans to attend the sentencing, spoke from his home in Florida, where he and Simpson became close friends. Simpson moved there after he was acquitted in the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles.

Simpson will spend a minimum of six years in state prison and could be held for life if the judge imposes maximum penalties or decides to run the sentences consecutively.

Court documents filed Tuesday indicate the state Parole and Probation Division has recommended that Simpson and his co-defendant get at least 18 years in prison.

Simpson's lawyer, Yale Galanter, plans to ask Judge Jackie Glass for the minimum sentence. Galanter said he would argue that Simpson has no prior convictions. In ordinary cases, the lack of a prior criminal record weighs heavily at sentencing.

Galanter, who believes that Simpson's jury was punishing him for the Los Angeles murders, said he hopes the judge will not do the same thing.

"If our country has gotten to the point where your acquittals count against you, we have a major problem," said Galanter, who wants to present witnesses at sentencing, notably the two memorabilia dealers who testified that Simpson robbed them.

He said Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley would testify that they don't want Simpson to go to prison, but Galanter was unsure whether the judge will allow them to speak.

As for the usually loquacious Simpson, Galanter said: "O.J. is not going to say a word. Anything he says could affect his appellate rights, and that is his only hope of freedom."

Since his conviction, Simpson has been held in isolation in a 7-by-14-foot jail cell. In state prison, he will remain in solitary confinement because of his celebrity.

Simpson can communicate with visitors using only a live closed-circuit video hookup. His only "contact visits" have been with his lawyers, Galanter and Gabriel Grasso.

Prosecutors have steadfastly refused to comment on the case, which is a hot topic in Las Vegas legal circles.

David Chesnoff, a well-known Las Vegas defense attorney, said he expects Glass to impose neither the minimum nor the maximum sentence.

"Judges in Las Vegas don't usually pile it on," he said. "I don't expect her to max him out."

However, Chesnoff said that Glass, who once denounced Simpson for "ignorance and arrogance," could be expected to lecture him.

"If I were the judge, I would tell him, 'You had a very fortunate experience in your prior contact with the justice system, and you should have gone to India and helped orphans,'" Chesnoff said.

He also predicted co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart would receive a lesser sentence "because he was not the organizer."

The events that brought Simpson to a prison sentence were recounted repeatedly in court.

Simpson traveled to Las Vegas for Scotto's wedding and a weekend of parties at the Palms hotel-casino. But before he could don his tuxedo as best man, Simpson had to take care of business.

He was intent on retrieving remnants of his storied past - pieces of memorabilia from his Hall of Fame football career that he heard were being peddled by dealers across town.

He talked about the plan all day on Sept. 13, 2007, as he met people at the Palms' bar and pool. Some offered to go along. Two of them said later that they brought guns, although Simpson insisted he never saw a gun and never asked anyone to bring one.

The morning after the incident, Simpson told The Associated Press he saw no guns, and he didn't think he had broken any laws.

"It's stolen stuff that's mine. Nobody was roughed up," he said, insisting he had a right to retrieve his plaques and pictures, including a photograph of him with the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

The meeting at the Palace Station hotel-casino was arranged by Thomas Riccio, a memorabilia dealer who secretly recorded the confrontation.

Riccio's recording, which netted him $210,000 when he sold it to media outlets, became the key piece of evidence in Simpson's trial. Jurors said they focused on Simpson's booming voice shouting, "Nobody leaves the room."

Riccio was granted immunity from prosecution to testify against Simpson and Stewart. Four other men who went along for the confrontation were initially charged but then given plea deals to testify for the prosecution.

The judge, who will sentence them Tuesday in a separate proceeding, is not required to abide by prosecutors' recommendations.

In the end, jurors said they didn't trust the witnesses and instead relied upon Riccio's recording and surveillance videos to make their decision. Jurors have no say in sentencing, and one of them said she didn't care if Simpson and Stewart went to prison.

"I don't have any ill feelings, and if they walked out tomorrow, so be it," juror Dora Pettit said after convicting Simpson. "I think he's an ordinary man that made a bad decision."

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten


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