O.J. Simpson freed from Las Vegas jail

LAS VEGAS Wed Sep 19, 2007 5:45pm EDT

1 of 15. Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson ducks into a car outside the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada September 19, 2007 after being released from jail on bail of $125,000.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking

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LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - O.J. Simpson was freed from a Las Vegas jail on Wednesday after a judge granted him $125,000 bail on charges he took part in an armed robbery of his own sports memorabilia.

Simpson, who was acquitted of killing his ex-wife and her friend in 1995 after a sensational double murder trial that left his reputation in tatters, walked out of jail hours after winning his release in a hearing before a Las Vegas judge.

He did not enter a plea to charges of armed robbery, assault and kidnapping at the hearing, but was expected to plead innocent at his next court appearance in October. His lawyers said they would fight the charges.

The 60-year-old ex-athlete did not respond to reporters and onlookers waiting for him outside the jail as he got into a car driven by his lead attorney, Yale Galanter. The pair drove to the Palms hotel and casino off the Vegas strip, followed by camera crews and with helicopters hovering overhead.

Under the bail conditions, Simpson, who lives in Florida, will have to surrender his passport but will be allowed to travel within the United States. Galanter has said he was eager to return home.

Simpson was handcuffed and shackled at the waist and wearing blue jail garb during the bail hearing. He addressed the court only when Judge Joe Bonaventure asked if he understood the charges.

"Yes sir," Simpson replied in a low, hoarse voice.

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More than 50 journalists attended the proceedings, along with Simpson's girlfriend Christine Prody, eldest daughter Arnelle and sister Shirley and her husband. The circus-like atmosphere on the broad courthouse steps was reminiscent of the earlier trial.

Galanter acknowledged the media frenzy and Simpson's battered image during a news conference outside court that was interrupted several times by onlookers who shouted, waved signs and held up plastic bottles of orange juice, a reference to his nicknames of O.J. and "the Juice."

"We understand who our client is and we know what the public perception is," attorney Yale Galanter said of the man whose murder trial captivated world attention and aggravated U.S. racial tensions more than a decade ago.

The Las Vegas charges stem from what authorities say was the armed theft last week by Simpson of his own sports memorabilia from collectors Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong, at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino.

According to police reports, Beardsley and Fromong say they were asked by a man named Thomas Riccio to meet at the Palace Station hotel room with a potential buyer for some $100,000 worth of memorabilia.

Instead, they say, Simpson burst into the room with four other men, two of them armed, and after an angry altercation stuffed the memorabilia into pillow cases and left.

Simpson was arrested on Sunday and had been held without bail until Wednesday's court appearance.

Simpson has told reporters he did nothing wrong and was trying to retrieve his own personal photos, his Hall of Fame certificate and other items he said had been stolen.

A record-setting running back in the National Football League who parlayed that fame into a career in movies and television, Simpson stood trial for the June 12, 1994, stabbing murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and her friend Ron Goldman, 25.

He was cleared by jurors despite what prosecutors called a "mountain of evidence" against him, but two years later a civil court jury found him responsible for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages to the victims' families.

The lead prosecutor in the murder case, former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark, attended Wednesday's hearing in Las Vegas, working as a special correspondent for a syndicated entertainment news program.

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