The celebrity-news Web site TMZ.com on Monday released an audiotape of the incident that led to former football star O.J. Simpson’s arrest on armed robberty charges in Las Vegas. Collectibles dealer Bruce Fromong told ABC’s Good Morning America that Simpson burst into a room at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino “almost commando style” with four men -- two of them brandishing guns -- and demanded that sports memorabilia collectors return mementos he claimed belonged to him. On the tape, Simpson, 60, screams, “Think you can steal my s*** and sell it?”
Fromong said at first he couldn’t believe what was happening. “"As soon as I saw him, I'm thinking, 'O.J., how can you be this dumb?' " Fromong said. Simpson said he had done nothing wrong, and simply tried to retrieve personal photos and football souvenirs, including his Hall of Fame certificate, that had been stolen by a former agent. “I’m O.J. Simpson,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “How am I going to think that I'm going to rob somebody and get away with it?”
“Um, I think the question pretty much answers itself, Juice,” said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post (free registration required). “Like broken-field running and hurdling through airports, getting away with it is considered one of your supreme talents.” It’s not that Simpson was convicted for the 1994 murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. “But come on. I think we can at least conclude that Orenthal James Simpson believes he is entitled to quite a bit more latitude than that accorded to mere mortals.”
So the prosecution has an audiotape, said the Los Angeles Times (free registration) in an editorial. Big deal. “Last time around, there was blood from the victims in Simpson's car, blood on his socks and blood on a glove found in his yard, but lawyers still convinced a jury that the evidence had been planted. Even after Simpson's ‘hypothetical’ confession, If I Did It, has become a runaway bestseller, many still believe that the sports hero was framed by racist cops.” It will be interesting to see if the prosecutors in this case treat this as an “opportunity to make up for a past injustice and go for the maximum.”
“For O.J.'s sake, one can only hope that he still has the names of some of the other Dream Team lawyers on his speed dial,” said Louisiana State University law professor Stuart Green in The Boston Globe (free registration). The law frowns on threatening people with guns. Although O.J. made a valid point after last week’s incident when he said that taking back your own things isn’t robbery. “Under well-settled law,” that’s a valid defense. So pull up a chair. O.J.’s in “hot water,” and that means America is about to be treated to “another lesson in criminal law.”
Simpson’s past could catch up to him in court, said Eugene Volokh on The Volokh Conspiracy. Nevada might have different rules, but under the U.S. Constitution a judge can take a defendant’s history into account at sentencing. Simpson was acquitted in the 1994 murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman, but he lost a civil suit for wrongful death filed by Goldman’s family. A judge could see that ruling as a huge strike against Simpson’s “moral character,” which could result in maximum sentences if he’s convicted.