O.J. Simpson leaves jail after judge's lecture
By Rick Wilking
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - O.J. Simpson was freed from a Las Vegas jail on Wednesday evening, after spending five nights behind bars for trying to contact a defendant in an armed-robbery case that could send him to prison for life.
The former football star posted the $250,000 bail that had been imposed earlier in the day by an angry judge, and was driven off in a white Mercedes-Benz amid tight security at the Clark County Detention Center. He was dressed in the same clothes he had been wearing when he was arrested.
Simpson, famously acquitted in 1995 of murdering his ex-wife, has been charged with leading a robbery last year to get back his own sports memorabilia.
Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass, scolding him for arrogance or ignorance, doubled Simpson's bail and told him to put his Florida home up as additional surety.
Glass ruled Simpson, 60, had violated the terms of bail set in November at $125,000 when he left a profanity laced telephone message for one of his co-defendants with his bail bondsman.
The message, which Simpson's lawyers said they did not dispute, was seen as a bid to dissuade the co-defendant from cooperating with authorities.
Simpson and two co-defendants, Clarence "CJ" Stewart and Charles Ehrlich, face trial in April on a dozen charges, including kidnapping and armed robbery. Simpson is accused of leading a group of men who stormed into a Las Vegas hotel room and took sports memorabilia at gunpoint from two collectors.
Defense lawyers argued Simpson went to the hotel only to recover his stolen belongings and did not have a gun.
'ARROGANCE ... IGNORANCE'
Glass said on Wednesday that Simpson had been told clearly not to try to contact any defendant before the trial, either directly or indirectly.
"I don't know, Mr Simpson, what the heck you were thinking," Glass told him. "I don't know if it's just arrogance or ignorance .... or both."
Prosecutors asked for Simpson to be held behind bars until his trial or for new bail of at least $1 million.
But Simpson's lawyer, Yale Galanter, said Simpson was neither a danger to the community nor a flight risk, noting that he "cannot even walk out of his front door without TV cameras following him."
"Mr. Simpson is truly contrite about what has occurred," Galanter told the judge.
Simpson was taken into custody on Friday in Florida, where he now lives, and flown to Las Vegas where he was locked up until Wednesday's court hearing.
Simpson, who parlayed his fame as an athlete into a career in Hollywood, was acquitted of the June 12, 1994, murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman after a sensational Los Angeles trial.
A civil court jury later found Simpson liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages to the victims' families, a judgment that remains largely unpaid.
(Writing by Jill Serjeant and Dean Goodman, editing by Philip Barbara and Todd Eastham)