LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - O.J. Simpson was freed from a Las Vegas jail on Wednesday and quickly left town after a judge granted the former American football star $125,000 bail on charges he took part in a bizarre 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 a hearing before a Las Vegas judge.
He did not enter a plea to charges of armed robbery, assault and kidnapping, but was expected to plead innocent at a later court appearance. His lawyers said they would fight the charges.
Simpson, who was followed by news camera crews and helicopters as he drove from the jail to his hotel, flew back home to Florida on Wednesday afternoon. Under the bail conditions, Simpson must surrender his passport but can travel within the United States.
During the hearing, Simpson wore blue jail garb and was handcuffed and shackled at the waist. He addressed the court only when asked by a judge if he understood the charges.
"Yes sir," Simpson replied in a low, hoarse voice.
Some 50 journalists were in court, along with Simpson's girlfriend Christine Prody, his eldest daughter Arnelle, sister Shirley and her husband, Benny. The circus-like atmosphere on the 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," Galanter said of the man whose murder trial captivated world attention more than a decade ago.
Simpson was arrested on Sunday in what prosecutors say was the armed theft of his own memorabilia from collectors Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino.
Beardsley and Fromong told police they were asked by a man named Thomas Riccio to meet at the Palace Station with a potential buyer for about $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.
In the latest twist in the case, Beardsley was arrested on Wednesday by U.S. Marshals at the Luxor hotel and casino on an unrelated warrant issued by the California Department of Corrections.
A U.S. Marshals Service spokesman, Michael Picou, said Beardsley was suspected of violating his parole in a conviction for stalking. Picou had no further information on the warrant.
Fromong has been in the Intensive Care Unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles since Monday night. A spokeswoman for the hospital, Simi Singer, said Fromong was in fair condition there after suffering a "major heart attack."
Simpson has said 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 prosecutor Marcia Clark, attended Wednesday's hearing in Las Vegas, working as a special correspondent for a syndicated entertainment news program.