O.J. Simpson Faces Felony Charges

LAS VEGAS -- A Nevada judge this morning set $125,000 bail for O.J. Simpson on charges stemming from his confrontation with collectors of sports memorabilia.

Simpson, one of the top athletes of his generation, who went from adulation to disgrace, is expected to post the bail. He appeared at the proceeding this morning wearing handcuffs and dressed in dark prison clothing.

Simpson, 60, and three other men face 10 felony counts including kidnapping and robbery with a deadly weapon in an incident Thursday in a Las Vegas hotel room. If convicted, the legendary football star, who was acquitted in the 1994 slayings of his former wife and her friend in Brentwood, could face life in prison.

As seems typical of almost anything involving Simpson, the crowds and cameramen gathered early for the arraignment.

T-shirts with Simpson's mug shot were prominent. The shirts parodied the tourist motto, "What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas," with the wry twist, "Get arrested in Las Vegas, stay in Las Vegas."

The former NFL star and Heisman Trophy winner has been held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center. He has been in a 7-foot by 14-foot cell, where he was visited by lawyers and his girlfriend, Christine Prody, according to a statement from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

His lawyer, Yale Galanter, said he intended to ask the court to release Simpson.

"These are very serious charges. He is taking it very seriously," Galanter told NBC.

Technically, Simpson was arraigned on 11 charges, the 10 felonies and one misdemeanor. He was asked if he understood the charges.

A return date for the week of Oct. 22 was set.

The Simpson camp had sought bail for the former pitchman who became infamous for fleeing in a Ford Bronco in a slow-motion chase in Los Angeles. Simpson was ordered to surrender his passport but is free to travel around the United States.

Simpson, who was acquitted in the deaths of former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, was arrested Sunday after a collector reported a group of armed men charged into his room at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino and took about $80,000 of items that Simpson claimed belonged to him.

Also charged in the alleged armed robbery are Walter Alexander, 46, of Arizona, and Las Vegas residents Clarence Stewart, 53, and Michael McClinton, 49. Alexander was released earlier this week on his own recognizance, and his lawyer, Robert Rentzer, said he had struck a plea deal with prosecutors. Stewart posted $78,000 bail. McClinton turned himself in to police Tuesday.

"My client didn't know what O.J. was going to do" when he agreed to drive him to the Palace Station, said Stewart's lawyer, Robert G. Lucherini.

According to his client, Lucherini said, no one in Room 1203 -- where two collectors were trying to sell photos and sports memorabilia that Simpson said were stolen from him -- pulled out a gun.

The four men face charges of conspiracy to commit a kidnapping; coercion with a deadly weapon; burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon; conspiracy to commit robbery; and two counts each of first-degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon, robbery with use of a deadly weapon and assault with a deadly weapon. They also were each charged with one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to commit a crime.

Simpson has said he was in Las Vegas for the wedding of Thomas Scotto, 45, who was one of the initial suspects but was cleared, said Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Lt. Clint Nichols.

Simpson's daughter was the wedding planner, Lucherini said, and on Thursday had asked Stewart, a Simpson golfing buddy, to help her run errands. When Stewart dropped her off, Simpson jumped into Stewart's Lincoln Navigator with two other men. Simpson told Stewart that he needed a ride to reclaim his stolen property.

Thomas Riccio, a California auctioneer, has said he arranged the meeting between Simpson and collectors Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong, who had possession of signed baseballs and game footballs, among other items.

Riccio surreptitiously tape-recorded the meeting and provided it to the celebrity website TMZ.com, which posted the expletive-laced confrontation Monday.

At one point, according to court documents, Simpson ripped Fromong's cellphone out of his hands to stop him from calling 911 as another man pointed a gun. Fromong, who suffered a heart attack Monday, was in critical condition at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Powers reported from Las Vegas and Muskal from Los Angeles.

ashley.powers@latimes.com

michael.muskal@latimes.com