Simpson denies accusations of breaking into hotel room

Updated: September 18, 2007, 7:39 PM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- O.J. Simpson says he went into a casino hotel room only to retrieve memorabilia that he felt was stolen from him. But police are investigating it as an armed robbery and named the fallen football star as a suspect Friday in yet another surprising chapter to his legal saga.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Simpson insisted there were no guns involved and that he went to the room at the Palace Station casino only to get stolen mementos that included his Hall of Fame certificate and a picture of the running back with J. Edgar Hoover.

"It's stolen stuff that's mine. Nobody was roughed up," Simpson told the AP.

Las Vegas Metro Police Capt. James Dillon said the confrontation was reported as an armed robbery involving guns. But he said no weapons had been recovered and stressed that the investigation was in its "infancy."

O.J. Simpson
AP Photo/Rob CarrO.J. Simpson, seen in a file photo, told Las Vegas Police that memorabilia at the center of an alleged casino break-in belonged to him.

Simpson was questioned by police immediately after the incident Thursday night. Dillon said Simpson would not agree to a formal, recorded interview until his lawyer arrived, but did offer some statements about the incident. No charges had been filed and no one was in custody.

Simpson said auction house owner Tom Riccio called him several weeks ago to say some collectors "have a lot of your stuff and they don't want anyone to know they are selling it."

Simpson, who was in Las Vegas for a friend's wedding, said he arranged to meet Riccio at the hotel. Riccio had set up a meeting with collectors under the guise that he had a private collector interested in buying Simpson's items.

"We walked into the room," Simpson said in the telephone interview. "I'm the last one to go in and when they see me, it's all 'Oh God.' "

He said he was accompanied by several men he met at a wedding cocktail party, and they took the collectibles.

Simpson said he wasn't sure where the items were taken.

A message left by the AP for Riccio was not immediately returned.

He told the Los Angeles Times he arranged the meeting after receiving a phone call about a month ago from a person who claimed to have personal items -- including footballs, awards and photos -- that had belonged to Simpson and wanted to sell them.

"Simpson was supposed to show up, identify the items and tell the men to either give the stuff back or he would call the police," Riccio told the newspaper.

The plan unraveled after Simpson showed up with about seven "intimidating looking guys," at least one of whom had a gun, he said.

"We tried to peacefully reacquire these personal items, not for their monetary value, but for their family value. O.J. wanted to be able to pass these things down to his kids," Riccio said.

"They [Simpson and his companions] took the stuff, and they left. What can I say? Things went haywire," he said.

Dillon said investigators were trying to untangle the web of ownership, and that some items had been recovered. He did not say which ones.

"We do have some conflicting statements, there is legitimate information that part or all of the items possibly are the possessions of O.J. Simpson," Dillon said, adding that would not excuse a robbery.

One of the collectors in the room was Alfred Beardsley, a real-estate agent and longtime collector of Simpson memorabilia, some of which he has been ordered to turn over as part of a lawsuit.

"I'm OK. I'm shaken up," Beardsley told the AP by phone. He said Simpson's account of the incident was fairly accurate except that there were guns.

Simpson said: "I didn't see anybody with any guns."

Bruce Fromong, a collector who testified at Simpson's civil trial, said he was in the room when Simpson barged in with other men.

"Him and some of his guys come busting through the door," Fromong told the celebrity gossip site TMZ.com. "They came in with guns, hollering and screaming."

Fromong, who reportedly tried to sell the suit Simpson wore when he was acquitted of murder, described him as a former close friend and said he couldn't explain the behavior.

"O.J.'s in enough trouble," Fromong said. "For him to come and do this kind of thing, I don't know what's wrong with O.J. This is stupidity."

Simpson was released after he and several associates were questioned, and he remained in Las Vegas.

"We don't believe he's going anywhere," police spokesman Jose Montoya said.

The Las Vegas district attorney's office will decide whether to pursue charges in the casino case. Both Beardsley and Simpson indicated the underlying issue was recovery of photos from Simpson's childhood.

The Heisman Trophy winner, ex-NFL star and actor lives near Miami and has been a tabloid staple since his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman were killed in 1994. Simpson was acquitted of murder charges, but a jury later held him liable for the killings in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Simpson has had to auction off his sports collectibles, including his Heisman Trophy, to pay some of the $33.5 million judgment awarded in the civil trial.

On Thursday, the Goldman family published a book about the killings that Simpson had written under the title, "If I Did It," about how he would have committed the crime had he actually done it. After a deal for Simpson to publish it fell through, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded the book's rights to the Goldman family, who retitled it "If I Did It: The Confessions of the Killer."

Fred Goldman, Ron's Goldman's father, said he was stunned by the news from Las Vegas.

"I'm overwhelmed and amazed," Fred Goldman told the AP. "If it turns out as it is currently being played, I think this shows more of who he is. He is proving over and over and over again that he thinks he can do anything and get away with it."

Goldman's lawyer, David Cook, said he would seek a court order on Tuesday to get whatever items Simpson took in Las Vegas.

The Palace Station, an aging property just west of the Las Vegas Strip, is one of several Station Casinos-owned resorts that cater to locals. The 1,000-room hotel-casino, with a 21-story tower and adjacent buildings, opened in 1976.

A company spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for comment.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press