Prosecutor Witness in OJ Simpson Case Admits Taking Large Sums from Media

OJ SIMPSON IN LAS VEGASProsecutor witness,Thomas Riccio testified that O.J.’s travails netted him $210,000 following O.J.’s arrest for the 2007 heist that he set in motion

By Stacey Silberman

TMZ and ABC paid witness large sums

HOLLYWOOD, CA (RUSHPRNEWS) 9/23/08 – In an unusual twist bringing up journalistic and witness ethics questions, infamous middleman in the O.J. Simpson case Thomas Riccio admitted in Clark County Court that he made $210,000 from the sale of audio recordings and media interviews following Simpson’s arrest.

Under cross examination by defense attorney Yale Galanter, Riccio confessed that he was paid $150,000 by celebrity Web site TMZ, $25,000 by “Entertainment Tonight,” $20,000 by an advertiser for Howard Stern’s satellite radio show, and $15,000 by TV network ABC under alleged pretenses that it was a photograph purchase.

Most legitimate news outlets, Hollywood Today included, do not ever pay for information, for ethics reasons and for something more basic – as by nature checkbook journalism can influence the info, if not by lies, by exaggeration. Yet in the tabloid age, some pay huge amounts for photos or videos as a way to step around the ethics questions. We do not know or imply that was the case here, yet Riccio’s surprising open court testimony of $210,000 from some media companies seriously raises eyebrows.

If Riccio’s past criminal history didn’t discredit his testimony than the amount of profiteering he managed from the situation may be enough for jurors to wonder about his motives in setting-up the deal in the first place.

Jurors will still have to weigh whether or not Simpson knew about the gun during the alleged armed robbery and kidnapping, but with the group of witnesses involved in the case, jurors are likely to be wary about their testimony.

The most critical question is about whether Simpson knew about the gun during the alleged robbery at the Palace Station Hotel on September 13, 2007. And Riccio seemed to want to support the fact that Simpson did not know about the gun.

Riccio looked stressed on the stand under Galanter’s hostile cross-examination Monday. The collectibles dealer, known for his endless banter during interviews, tried the same tactic in court, angering District Court Judge Jackie Glass prompting her to admonish both witness and defense attorney several times.

Again, the defense played the digital recording for jurors. Riccio was asked by Galanter if he heard someone say, “Put the gun down,” to which he answered “no.”

Victim Bruce Fromong was the first witness to testify in the trial. During his testimony, he claimed somebody said, “Put the gun down,” prompting Simpson to wave his hands downward in unison, may indicate his knowledge of the gun.

The defense grilled Riccio about whether he believes Simpson knew about the gun.

“I did see a gun, but I know he says he didn’t see it,” Riccio testified. “I don’t know for sure what he saw and didn’t.”

Riccio was questioned as to how many times he spoke with Simpson after the incident and whether the conversations were recorded.

“I’ve had a few conversations with Simpson after the incident.” One conversation took place the day before his arrest after inaccurate information was leaked to the media regarding the incident.

Simpson left messages on Riccio’s phone indicating he had no knowledge of a gun. But Riccio said there was a gun and that he “wouldn’t lie” about it. He said Simpson told him the whole thing would just “blow over.”

He was arrested the next day on September 16, 2007.

Riccio said Simpson planned to take back personal mementos after Alfred Beardsley, one of the victims in the case called him about availability of the items. He said helped Simpson because he thought he should get his stuff back. But that he didn’t do this “out of the goodness of his heart,” as District Attorney Chris Owens had said in opening statements.

Riccio also said he made a deal with Simpson to sign 200 copies of the book, “If I Did It; Confessions of a Killer,” which was due out shortly after the incident.

Riccio made more money than anyone from the incident. He also published a book in Spring 2008 called “Busted,” which chronicled the events leading up to, during, and after Sept. 13.

Riccio’s earlier testimony prompted laughter from the courtroom at times, but not today, as defense questions became critical and pointed.

Judge Glass was not pleased and admonished both Riccio and Galanter when they broke court rules.

The trial of Simpson, 61, and Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, 54, is anything but funny considering that both men face the possibility of life in prison, with the possibility of parole, if found guilty of some of the dozen charges against them, including robbery, armed robbery, coercion, kidnapping, armed kidnapping and conspiracy to commit robbery. Even a basic robbery conviction will mandate a prison sentence.

Simpson claims he never asked anyone to bring weapons to the hotel for the recovery operation and that he had no idea his friend Michael McClinton brought a gun and pointed it at Fromong’s face.

Simpson was heard on the recording yelling, “Don’t let nobody out of the room” to his five big “boys” during the alleged robbery and armed kidnapping, which took place in a very small and crowded hotel room.

Riccio was asked what he thought after the gun came out saying, “This is overkill, big time.”

“Then it was like, whoa. I got scared myself,” he said Friday.

Riccio said he thought Fromong offered to give Simpson his personal mementos within the first minute of the heist, but then Simpson starting yelling and that’s when the gun came out.

McClinton was “basically hopping around with the gun in his hand, barking orders and telling people what to do,” Riccio said.

McClinton is one of four men who pleaded guilty to one felony count after making a plea deal with Clark County District Attorney David Roger.

McClinton testified during the pre-trial hearing that Simpson instructed him to bring some “heat.”

The three other Simpson accomplices with plea deals are Walter Alexander, Charles Ehrlich, and Charles Cashmore. They will also testify for the prosecution.

“Everything was perfect until the gun came out,” Riccio testified Monday. Earlier he said, “The guy with the bald head, (Michael) McClinton, pulled out a gun. And it got crazy from there.”

Riccio received full immunity for his role in the alleged crime in exchange for the numerous digital audio recordings he gave the prosecution.

“I never at any time wanted a gun in my room. I am antigun,” Riccio said.

Riccio was also questioned about the intent of the sting operation saying he told the dealers that his “buyer” only wanted O.J.’s “personal stuff” and nothing else. He said they didn’t listen and brought other stuff anyway.

In earlier conversations, Beardsley told Riccio he had the mementos, including photographs of Simpson’s deceased parents and daughter, photos of his first wedding, and childhood photos of him with rickets showing his legs in braces. But those pictures never materialized, Riccio said.

After entering room 1203, “Simpson walked in and went right to the front of Fromong and Beardsley and started scolding them. He just stood there and yelled and yelled at them,” Riccio testified.

“He said, ‘I know you guys. You stole my stuff,'” Riccio recalled.

Simpson was also heard on tape saying, “Don’t let nobody out of this room.”
The dealers said Mike (Gilbert), Simpson’s former agent took the stuff, Riccio said.

He testified that Simpson told them, “I only want my stuff. Stuff that’s not mine, we’ll give back.” And the men left the room with all of the boxes and other sports memorabilia during the frenzy.

The trial is expected to last for approximately five weeks. Simpson and Stewart have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The outcome of the trial hinges on whether jurors believe testimony from a group of men with either criminal records or who have found ways to profit from Simpson’s bad judgment.

Jurors the Palace Station Hotel on Friday to see hotel room 1203, up close and personal. Jurors were escorted by bus without much fanfare.

Only a few journalists were invited including one reporter and one photographer from the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper. One TruTV videographer accompanied jurors too. Even the Associated Press was excluded, which prompted a call from their attorney.

Twelve jurors, six alternates, co-defendant Stewart, defense attorneys, prosecutors and court officials went along for the visit. O.J. did not go.

Jurors visited the room two at a time and stayed about 30-seconds each. One juror placed her hand on the armoire where Riccio said he’d hidden the recorder. Another juror measured her footsteps in the room to perhaps to get a perspective on how far away the gun may have been from Simpson, based on witness testimony.

source: Hollywood Today