LAS VEGAS — O.J. Simpson, who went from American sports idol to celebrity-in-exile after he was acquitted of murder in 1995, was found guilty Friday of robbing two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel room.
The 61-year-old former football star could spend the rest of his life in prison. Sentencing was set for Dec. 5.
A weary and somber Simpson released a heavy sigh as the charges were read by the clerk in Clark County District Court. He was immediately taken into custody.
The Hall of Fame football star was convicted of kidnapping, armed robbery and 10 other charges for gathering up five men a year ago and storming into a room at a hotel-casino, where the group seized several game balls, plaques and photos. Prosecutors said two of the men with him were armed; one of them said Simpson asked him to bring a gun.
The verdict came 13 years to the day after Simpson was cleared of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, in Los Angeles in one of the most sensational trials of the 20th century.
“I don’t like to use the word payback,” defense attorney Yale Galanter said. “I can tell you from the beginning my biggest concern … was whether or not the jury would be able to separate their very strong feelings about Mr. Simpson and judge him fairly and honestly.”
Simpson’s co-defendant, Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, 54, also was found guilty on all charges in the Las Vegas case and taken into custody.
Simpson showed little emotion as officers handcuffed him and walked him out of the courtroom. His sister, Carmelita Durio, sobbed behind him in the arms of Simpson’s friend, Tom Scotto, who said, “I love you,” as Simpson passed by. As spectators left the courtroom, Durio collapsed.
Jurors made no eye contact with the defendants as they entered the courtroom. They declined to answer questions after the verdict was read.
Galanter said his client had expected the outcome, and in a courthouse conversation with an Associated Press reporter on Thursday, Simpson had implied as much.
Simpson said he felt melancholy and that he was “afraid that I won’t get to go to my kids’ college graduations after I managed to get them through college.”
Galanter said it was not a happy day for anybody. “His only hope is the appellate process,” he said.