Friday, September 14, 2007

O.J. Simpson a Suspect in Casino Break-In

LAS VEGAS — Investigators questioned O.J. Simpson and named him a suspect Friday in a confrontation at a casino hotel room involving sports memorabilia, but the former football star denied breaking into the room.

Simpson said he was conducting a "sting operation" to collect his belongings when he was escorted into the room at the Palace Station casino in Las Vegas. Police said he was a suspect in a break-in at the hotel.

Simpson said an auction house owner 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, arranged to meet auction house owner Tom Riccio.

"Everybody knows this is stolen stuff," Simpson said. "Not only wasn't there a break-in, but Riccio came to the lobby and escorted us up to the room. In any event, it's stolen stuff that's mine. Nobody was roughed up."

The break-in was reported at the Palace Station casino late Thursday night, police spokesman Jose Montoya said. He said investigators determined the break-in involved sports collectibles.

"When they talked to him, Simpson made the comment that be believed the memorabilia was his," Montoya said. "We're getting conflicting stories from the two sides."

Simpson was released after he and several associates were questioned, but he is considered a suspect in the case, Montoya said. He is believed to be in Las Vegas.

"We don't believe he's going anywhere," he said.

Hotel sources told TMZ that Simpson was spotted in the hotel Thursday night, and that he did not have a room booked for himself.

Sources also told TMZ that Simpson and five other men barged into a Palace Station hotel room last night around 7:15 p.m. and at gunpoint took various memorabilia once owned by Simpson.

Alfred Beardsley, a memorabilia dealer, had secured various items once owned by Simpson. Beardsley has said he had the suit Simpson wore the day he was acquitted of murder.

Beardsley told TMZ he had arranged to meet with someone Thursday night who was interested in buying the suit and other Simpson memorabilia. Beardsley says the man was actually a member of Simpson's crew. He says the men stormed the room, two of them had guns drawn.

Beardsley says the men claimed to be police officers. Simpson and others demanded that Beardsley and two other men surrender their cell phones. Beardsley refused to do so.

Beardsley says the group stole every piece of memorabilia in the room, including items signed by Joe Montana. They also took a case of never-released leather editions of Simpson's book, "I Want to Tell You."

Beardsley said he made a 911 call, and cops subsequently obtained a search warrant for the room. CSI investigators took Beardsley's phone and DNA samples and photos of his body. Beardsley said one of the guys roughed him up.

The Heisman Trophy winner, ex-NFL star and actor had been scheduled to give a deposition Friday in Miami in a bankruptcy case involving his eldest daughter. But it was rescheduled because Simpson had told attorneys that he would be out of town.

On Thursday, the father and sister of Ronald Goldman appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to discuss their decision to publish Simpson's book, "If I Did It," book, released the same day.

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

Fred Goldman and his daughter, Kim, said by seizing control of the book they are punishing the man they believe murdered their loved one.

Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of killing his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ronald.

Over the summer, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded the book's rights to Goldman's family to help satisfy the wrongful death judgment against Simpson. The Goldmans retitled the book "If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer."

Winfrey said she won't buy or read the book, and asked the Goldmans if they don't feel its proceeds are "blood money."

"It's sending him a message," Kim Goldman said. "He put hours putting together this confession about how he killed Ron and Nicole, and he worked hard thinking he was going to make millions off of it. And we snatched it right out from under him."

Simpson's ghostwritten, hypothetical story of how he would have murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman originally was scheduled to come out last November, but HarperCollins pulled the book in response to near-universal protests.

Beaufort Books, a small New York-based publisher, is reissuing "If I Did It" with Simpson's original manuscript intact and extensive commentary, including a chapter written by the Goldmans.

Simpson has maintained his innocence in the 1994 killings in Los Angeles. Currently living near Miami, he has disowned the book, saying he had little do with its creation. The ghostwriter, Pablo Fenjves, has disagreed, saying "If I Did It" is based on extensive discussions with Simpson.

As of Thursday, the book was No. 8 in sales on Barnes& and No. 52 on

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