Saturday, October 18, 2008

O.J. Simpson and His Stuff

"I just wanted to get my stuff back." And that's how O.J. Simpson found himself on the wrong side of the law in Las Vegas.

Simpson provokes strong feelings from many people because of his criminal acquittal and civil conviction involving the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, over a decade ago. But no matter how you may feel about the outcome of that trial, Simpson's current situation is a dramatic example of attachment to personal possessions leading to serious, and undoubtedly unexpected, consequences.

Simpson was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping last month for his strange and seemingly desperate attempt to reclaim items he claims were stolen from him. The LA Times reported:

"Prosecutors say [Simpson and his cohorts] stole up to $100,000 in footballs, plaques and baseballs at gunpoint from the [two sports collectibles] dealers, who had been tricked into thinking they were meeting a wealthy buyer. . .

"Prosecutors painted Simpson as masterminding the alleged robbery . . . in a hotel room last year. The Hall of Fame running back, the prosecution contended, rounded up five cohorts, told two of them to bring guns and ordered one of the armed men to brandish his weapon and 'look menacing'. . .

"Thomas Riccio, the auctioneer who set up the meeting with the dealers, surreptitiously taped the six-minute encounter on a digital recorder hidden atop an armoire. He later sold the clip to celebrity gossip site TMZ.com for $150,000. Riccio, who was granted immunity for cooperating with prosecutors, also taped the hours surrounding the confrontation -- including Simpson denying in phone calls afterward that he saw weapons. . .

"Many of Simpson's cohorts sought media interviews and book deals after the altercation -- even defense witness Tom Scotto, who testified that the self-proclaimed gunmen threatened him and tried to extort $50,000 from him or Simpson. Riccio has published a book called Busted."

I'm not sure which aspect of this case is the most bizarre. First, you have Simpson who, you would think, would want to stay as far away from criminal activities as possible. Why in the world would he believe he could pull this off?

You have the guy who arranged the meeting with the dealers and he's got a digital recorder set up and running through the entire confrontation; then he sells the recording for a ton of money to a gossip website.

You have the guy who's a defense witness and he's already published a book.

And you have the fact that, should Simpson ever get back any of his memorabilia under any circumstances (other than in total secrecy), he probably wouldn't be able to keep it because Ron Goldman's father would immediately get involved. In fact, today another Los Angeles Times article reported:

"The judge overseeing efforts to collect a $33.5-million civil judgment against O.J. Simpson said Friday that he will hold a hearing next month to investigate allegations that the NFL star's valuable Hall of Fame ring is in the possession of a memorabilia dealer he was recently convicted of kidnapping."

Simpson's lawyers are seeking a new trial. They’ve alleged that the judge “blocked them from telling jurors that they could consider lesser charges of larceny or second-degree kidnapping against Simpson, or that [he] believed when he confronted memorabilia dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley that he was retrieving items that belonged to him.”

Whatever the outcome, the whole mess could have been avoided had Simpson not been so attached to his stuff. If he had told the police that he suspected the dealers were selling items that belonged to him, possession of anything that had been recovered legally would have been challenged by Fred Goldman, so he wouldn't be able to keep it. If he was somehow able to get his things back through this absurd "robbery" scheme, maybe he thought no one would find out about it. But why take that kind of risk for stuff?

Sentencing is set for December 9th; the penalty could be as much as life imprisonment. The minimum sentence is two years. Would you trade two years of your life for some of your stuff, even if it was considered valuable "memorabilia?" O.J.'s got a pension and house; he can afford to play golf all the time. Let the stuff go!

Simpson's conviction was exactly thirteen years after his acquittal in his criminal trial for murder. I suppose people into everything from numerology to karmic retribution will find some symbolic significance in that. Conspiracy theorists (the good ones are able to find conspiracies everywhere) will say the whole thing was a set-up to nail O.J. and get him imprisoned; after all, four of the "gang" took deals for lesser sentences in exchange for testifying for the prosecution, leaving only Simpson and Clarence Stewart as defendants. In my mind, it's adequate to attribute the timing to coincidence and O.J.'s involvement to either arrogance or lunacy.

Officially, the case is called "Nevada v. Orenthal James Simpson, 07-237890," but I'll just call it "The Case of Wanting Stuff - Gone Wrong, Bigtime."

© 2008 Cynthia Friedlob

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