3rd co-defendant takes plea deal in O.J Simpson case
October 29, 2007
LAS VEGAS ” A man whose lawyer says he can testify that O.J. Simpson asked him to bring guns to the alleged armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers told a judge on Monday that he’ll accept a plea deal and testify against Simpson and two other men.
Michael McClinton, 49, of Las Vegas, became the third man to agree to plead guilty to reduced charges in return for his testimony.
He told Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joe M. Bonaventure he will plead guilty to robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, felonies that combined could get him probation or up to 11 years in prison.
McClinton wielded a gun and acted like a police officer Sept. 13 when Simpson and five other men confronted collectibles dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley at an off-Strip casino hotel, according to police reports. Walter Alexander, a
Simpson golfing buddy from Mesa, Ariz., who also took a plea deal and agreed to testify in the case, told police that McClinton gave a gun to him, but he never took it out of his waistband.
McClinton, a security guard whose guns were confiscated and who agreed to surrender his concealed weapons permit, spoke in court only to acknowledge he understood the terms of the plea agreement and to waive his preliminary hearing.
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The judge declined to lift house arrest restrictions for McClinton, who posted $32,000 bail after he was arrested Sept. 18.
In brief comments outside the courtroom, McClinton’s lawyer, William Terry, confirmed that McClinton can testify Simpson asked him to bring two guns when they went to the hotel room at the Palace Station casino.
“There’s no reason to dispute that,” Terry said.
Terry said McClinton’s testimony at a scheduled Nov. 8 preliminary hearing will come before his Nov. 13 plea. The lawyer said further details of McClinton’s role would come out “during the course of the preliminary hearing or … after he enters his plea.”
McClinton’s testimony would provide prosecutors with another account contradicting Simpson’s claim that no guns were involved when he went to retrieve collectibles and items he said belonged to him.
The plea was not a surprise, said Simpson’s attorney, Yale Galanter, who said he believes McClinton will be the last cooperating witness.
“What this comes down to is the real bad guys are pointing a finger at O.J., and the prosecution is giving away the courthouse to try to shore up their case,” Galanter told The Associated Press. “We look forward to cross-examining these witnesses at the preliminary hearing next week. “
Simpson and co-defendants Clarence Stewart and Charles Ehrlich each face 12 criminal charges, including kidnapping, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy and coercion, and one gross misdemeanor, conspiracy to commit a crime. A kidnapping conviction alone could result in a sentence of life in prison with parole.
Lawyers for Stewart and Ehrlich did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment about McClinton’s plea deal.
Alexander told police that Simpson said to bring guns, and told him later to deny that guns were used. Alexander pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to commit robbery, and could face probation or up to six years in prison.
Charles Cashmore, a journeyman union laborer from Las Vegas, pleaded guilty to felony accessory to robbery. He could receive probation or up to five years in prison.
Authorities say memorabilia taken from the hotel room included football game balls signed by Simpson, Joe Montana lithographs, baseballs autographed by Pete Rose and Duke Snider, photos of Simpson with the Heisman Trophy, and framed awards and plaques that police reports said had been valued at as much as $100,000.