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Trial a glimpse at private O.J.

Mon., Sept. 29, 2008

Tapes show aging, charismatic Simpson

When he’s not on trial, O.J. Simpson wakes up at 5 a.m. and is driving to a golf course in Miami by 6:30. He takes an afternoon nap and goes to bed early. In between, the football great is beset by requests.

Strangers want to take his picture. Fans want to buy him a drink. And, according to recordings played in his robbery-kidnapping trial, men who call themselves his friends try to cash in on his infamy.

The hours of recordings – made surreptitiously by a Simpson business partner on Sept. 13, 2007 – provide an unfiltered look at the Hall of Famer’s life since his 1995 acquittal in the killings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Though Simpson once juggled dating models and posing on Hollywood red carpets, the tapes portray an aging but still charismatic man, who draws crowds of adoring strangers in bars but counts few trustworthy friends.

In the recordings, he complains about one confidant who tried to persuade him to film a sex tape and to pose for the National Enquirer with a mound of cocaine. Another associate is heard hitting him up for autographs only to call him a killer as soon as he’s out of earshot.

“I know my friends,” Simpson says on one tape, just hours before he and five cohorts allegedly robbed a pair of memorabilia dealers.

The prosecution’s witness list belies his assessment. All but one of the eight other men at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino confrontation are testifying against Simpson. Several said he was the scheme’s ringleader and that at least one associate was armed. The 61-year-old faces a dozen counts, including kidnapping, which carries a potential life sentence.

His private life is fraught with schemes and betrayals, according to the recordings, interviews and court testimony.

Consider Mike Gilbert, his former agent. Once the closest of friends – the Gilbert children knew Simpson as “Uncle O.J.” – the men collaborated on a number of business ventures, including a planned auction of the suit Simpson wore the day of his acquittal.

In 1997, after a civil jury found Simpson liable for the pair of murders, Gilbert helped Simpson hide his assets, associates say on the recordings.

But a decade ago, the men had a bitter falling out and no longer speak. Prosecutors say Simpson’s anger toward his old friend – he maintains Gilbert stole valuable mementos from him – led the NFL standout to mastermind the robbery.


 

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