Man accusing Simpson of robbery now 'on O.J.'s side'

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

LAS VEGAS -- A sports memorabilia collector who accused O.J. Simpson of armed robbery said Saturday that he was "on O.J.'s side" and wanted the case dropped.

"I want this thing to go away. I have health problems," said Alfred Beardsley, the collector who told police on Thursday that Simpson and several other men stormed a Las Vegas hotel room and stole memorabilia at gunpoint.

Beardsley, of Burbank, Calif., indicated Saturday that he was not interested in pursuing the case.

"I have no desire to fly back and forth to Las Vegas to prosecute this," he told The Associated Press. "How are they going to have a witness who's on O.J.'s side?"

Beardsley said he called police only because the items were valuable and if he had not reported them as stolen he would be "held accountable for all the stuff."

Police said they had been in touch with Beardsley, who had not formally withdrawn his complaint.

Even if he does, "we still have a responsibility to investigate. He was not the only victim," Lt. Clint Nichols said. Another collector in the room, Bruce Fromong, had not indicated that he wants to drop the complaint.

Earlier, Las Vegas police said they were questioning one of the three or four men who was thought to have accompanied Simpson to the hotel room. No arrests had been made and police were still trying to determine what took place before Simpson left the room with memorabilia he says was stolen from him, Nichols said. Police think a weapon was involved and they want to review hotel surveillance tapes to help sort it out.

That will include unraveling the contorted relationships between the erstwhile athlete and a cadre of collectors that has profited from his infamy since he was found liable in the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

At least one of the men considered Simpson a close friend. One had been his licensing agent. Another had collected Simpson items for years.

But times have changed.

In a Saturday phone interview with AP, Simpson declared: "None of these guys are friends of mine."

Beardsley was once a Simpson defender and ally but had recently appeared "sympathetic" with the families of people Simpson was accused of killing, an attorney for the family of Ron Goldman said.

Fromong once testified for the defense in the civil trial brought by the families of Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson. Now Fromong says Simpson robbed him, along with Beardsley, at gunpoint in the room at the Palace Station casino.

Simpson, 60, said he was just trying to retrieve memorabilia, particularly photos of his wife and children. There were no guns, he told AP. There was no break-in, he said.

The man Simpson accused of stealing the items from him is Mike Gilbert, another one-time associate. As Simpson's licensing agent in the late 1990s, Gilbert admitted snatching Simpson's Heisman Trophy and other items from his client's Brentwood home as payment for money he said was owed to him. He later turned the items over to authorities, save the trophy's nameplate.

Gilbert swore he'd go to jail before turning the nameplate over to the Goldman family, which was trying to collect on the $33.5 million civil judgment won against Simpson. Gilbert later surrendered it under court order.

He apparently remained tight with his client through the ordeal.

"It has absolutely not affected our relationship at all," Gilbert said in October 1997.

Since then, according to Simpson, their relationship has changed. Simpson told AP he believes Gilbert stole items from a storage locker once held in Simpson's mother's name.

Attempts to reach Gilbert by phone were unsuccessful.

Simpson, who lives in Miami, said he expected to find the stolen items when he went to an arranged meeting Thursday.

The man who arranged the meeting, according to Simpson, was another man who makes a living on the fringes of the celebrity.

Thomas Riccio, a well-known memorabilia dealer, made headlines when his auction house, Corona, Calif.-based Universal Rarities, handled the eBay auction of Anna Nicole Smith's handwritten diaries.

Simpson said Riccio called him several weeks ago to inform him that people "have a lot of your stuff and they don't want anyone to know they are selling it," Simpson said.

Along with the personal photos, Simpson expected to find one item in particular: the suit he was wearing when he was acquitted of murder charges in 1995.

It's not clear where they got the suit, but Beardsley, a former real estate agent and longtime Simpson collector, and Fromong had been trying to sell it for several months. They'd recently tried eBay and the celebrity gossip Web site TMZ.com.

Goldman family attorney David Cook said Beardsley called him several times with the hopes of arranging a deal.

"When I spoke with him, my impression was that he was very sympathetic to the Goldmans," Cook said.

That's not the position Beardsley, who once tried to arrange lucrative autograph signings for Simpson, took in 1999, before a major auction of Simpson's sports collectibles, including his Heisman.

"It bothers me that I'm putting money in the Goldman and Brown pockets," Beardsley told the AP. "I believe he's not responsible for this crime, and I think there are a lot of people who believe that."

It was perhaps such statements that made it hard for Simpson to believe that Beardsley and Fromong were now attempting to profit off his personal items, which he says include the wedding video from Simpson's first marriage.

In an interview with TMZ.com, Beardsley noted that during the alleged robbery in the hotel room Simpson appeared surprised the pair were the ones selling the items.

"Simpson was saying that 'I liked you, I thought you were a good guy,"' Beardsley said.

Very quickly the relationship between the collectors and the celebrity were shifting once again. On Saturday, Beardsley said he had spoken with Simpson since the incident. He called to apologize, Beardsley said.

As questions swirled around the curious cast of characters and their tumultuous meeting, media scrutiny and public interest that has dogged the fallen athlete was in full swing.

By Saturday afternoon, Simpson's new book, "If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer," was the top seller on Amazon.com.

None of the men will profit from the book's sales. After a deal for Simpson to publish it fell through, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded the book's rights to the Goldman family.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press