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Simpson's lawyer promises to appeal, condemns verdict as 'payback'

10/4/2008 - NFL

LAS VEGAS -- In a city where luck means everything, O.J.
Simpson came out the big loser -- and his unlucky number in a case
full of bizarre twists was 13.

He was convicted of an armed robbery that happened on Sept. 13
and was found guilty on the 13th anniversary of his Los Angeles
murder acquittal. The Las Vegas jury deliberated for 13 hours after
a 13-day trial.

And then, as only the sobs of Simpson's sister broke the silence
late Friday, the lights went out.

Court marshals flipped on flashlights and shouted for everyone
to stay seated. Only the judge knew what had happened. It was 11
p.m. and the courthouse lights had shut down automatically.

"Timed out," Judge Jackie Glass said in a fitting epitaph for
the story of O.J. Simpson, which has long haunted America.

The 61-year-old Hall of Fame football star was convicted of
kidnapping, armed robbery and 10 other charges for gathering five
men a year ago and storming a room at a hotel-casino to seize
Simpson sports mementos -- including game balls, plaques and photos
-- from two collectors. Prosecutors said two of the men with him
were armed; one said Simpson had asked him to bring a gun.

After the verdict, Simpson, the
sports-idol-turned-celebrity-pariah, was handcuffed and led from
the room with his co-defendant, Clarence "C.J." Stewart. They
could spend the rest of their lives in prison.

"There is justice," said attorney Gloria Allred, who has
represented the family of his slain ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.
"Justice was delayed, but in this case it was not denied. Now that
he may spend the rest of his life in prison, the law, and not O.J.
Simpson, will have the last word."

Some observers said the Las Vegas case paled in comparison to
the "trial of the century" in 1995, a yearlong opus in which
Simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend
Ronald Goldman.

A rapt nation followed the Los Angeles trial. Tales of a
gruesome murder and a bloody glove, as well as the celebrity
defendant, drew a media frenzy.

In Las Vegas, Simpson's fate played out in a small courtroom
dotted with empty seats. Even the stunning verdict came as most of
America slept, oblivious to the irony that Simpson might spend the
rest of his life in prison for what most perceived as a petty
crime, a tussle among dysfunctional middle-aged men.

Simpson's Las Vegas defense tried to tell the jury that the two
cases had nothing to do with each other, but it was a losing
battle.

"I don't know that one trial cancels out the other," said
Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson, who attended
Simpson's murder trial. "People will always be troubled by O.J.
For the people troubled by the Los Angeles acquittal, this case
will make small amends. Saying finally there is justice, at least
from a legal perspective, is very crude way of looking at
justice."

She predicted that Stewart, 54, will have a strong chance for
reversal on appeal because he was forced to stand trial beside
Simpson.

"O.J. was toxic, and he has been toxic since 1994, and this
jury was just ready to clean up the mess," Levenson said.

Simpson lawyer Yale Galanter said Saturday he felt bad for
Simpson but even worse for Stewart, who got dragged along in a
campaign to convict Simpson.

"This was just payback," he said of the verdict. "They were
on an agenda."

The jurors claimed a mixture of opinions about his acquittal
on murder charges more than a decade ago, but all told attorneys
they could set aside their feelings.

According to jury questionnaires released Saturday, five of the
12 jurors wrote that they disagreed with the 1995 verdict that
cleared Simpson. Most others claimed to be uncertain
or did not answer the question.

Galanter and Stewart's lawyers promised to appeal, in part
because unlike the predominantly black jury that decided Simpson's
murder case, this panel included no African-Americans. Neither
Simpson nor Stewart testified.

Simpson friend Tom Scotto, who wept in court, called it "a
public lynching."

"Was this something to put someone in jail for the rest of
their life for? It's a total injustice. There was no justice served
in that courtroom," Scotto said.

It was Scotto's wedding that had brought Simpson to Las Vegas on
that fateful week in 2007, and details of wedding plans, flowers, a
cake and parties formed an ironic counterpoint to testimony about
Simpson gathering up a posse that included two gun-toting men to
confront memorabilia dealers who were peddling Simpson's personal
property to the highest bidder.

The case was set in motion by Thomas Riccio, a collectibles
broker who tried to bring in the FBI when he heard that two
memorabilia dealers were planning to sell a trove of Simpson
artifacts. Failing to get their attention, he helped set up a
"sting" by promoting an anonymous buyer who turned out to be
Simpson.

Riccio, who has peddled goods including video of Anna Nicole
Smith's breast implant surgery, saw a chance to profit by recording
the confrontation between Simpson and collectibles dealers Alfred
Beardsley and Bruce Fromong.

He rented a cramped hotel room away from the Las Vegas Strip for
the meeting and planted a digital recorder atop an armoire. Riccio
then sold the recordings of the six-minute confrontation for
$210,000 before turning them over to police eight days later.
Although they couldn't be authenticated, the recordings became the
heart of the prosecution's case, along with audio recorded by
gunman Michael McClinton at two wedding parties.

The recordings were sometimes garbled, but Simpson's voice came
through loud and clear: "Don't let nobody out of this room." The
words formed the basis of the prosecution's kidnapping charge.

The former football hero also was heard accusing the men of
stealing his possessions. His lawyer would argue that Simpson was
on a recovery mission to reclaim the artifacts of his life.

But District Attorney David Roger argued that ownership was not
a defense to robbery.

Kidnapping is punishable by five years to life in prison. Armed
robbery carries a sentence of at least two years behind bars and
could bring as much as 30.

Simpson and Stewart were taken to the Clark County jail, where
the football star will live in a 7-by-14-foot cell, far removed
from his ranch-style home in the lush Miami suburbs. It will be his
home until at least Dec. 5, when he and Stewart are scheduled to be
sentenced.

Even before the verdict, Simpson appeared resigned that his luck
had run out.

He had been prepared for the worst, his lawyer said.

And in a conversation with The Associated Press on Thursday,
Simpson implied as much, saying, "I'm afraid that I won't get to
go to my kids' college graduations after I managed to get them
through college."

Scotto told reporters Saturday that he had spoken to Simpson by
phone.

"He's in good spirits," Scotto said. "He's one of the
strongest human beings on the planet. He's confident the truth will
come out eventually."