LAS VEGAS (AP) - The collectibles broker who arranged the confrontation between O.J. Simpson and two sports memorabilia dealers predicts the Nevada jury that heard the armed robbery and
kidnapping case against the former football star won't convict him.
"I feel there will be a hung jury," star prosecution witness Thomas Riccio said after both sides rested with Simpson and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart facing five years to life in prison if convicted of kidnapping, or mandatory prison time if convicted of armed robbery. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
"If you ask 12 people, half will say he's guilty and half will say he's not guilty," said Riccio, whose secret audio recordings of Simpson before, during and after a hotel room confrontation with the two memorabilia dealers provided key evidence for the prosecution.
Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass told the jury of nine women and three men they could begin deliberations as early as Thursday, after she provides instructions on the law and both sides
make closing arguments.
Neither Simpson nor Stewart testified before the prosecution and defense rested their cases Wednesday after a last-minute dispute over a witness' blurted testimony threatened to derail the trial after four days of jury selection and 12 days of testimony.
Glass, who rejected calls to declare a mistrial, expressed exasperation and concern that the trial was in jeopardy.
"I'm trying to get this case back on track," she said. "I'm surprised you haven't seen my head spin and fire come out of my mouth at this point in this trial."
Glass admonished jurors to disregard the blurted testimony of police Detective Andy Caldwell and then told them to forget about her admonition.
The legal flap all but upstaged the defense's final flourish - testimony from Simpson's close friend, Thomas Scotto, that two key prosecution witnesses tried to extort $50,000 from him.
The defense introduced a voicemail recording of former co-defendant turned prosecution witness Walter Alexander offering to tailor his testimony to benefit Simpson if he was paid enough.
"If I get some help, I'll do whatever I can," said Alexander, whose message was played in a hushed courtroom.
"I can do quite a bit," said Alexander, one of four former co-defendants who pleaded guilty to reduced charges in return for their testimony against Simpson.
Scotto was asked what he thought after hearing the message.
"Basically, he was selling his testimony," Scotto said.
Scotto, 46, a North Miami Beach, Fla., auto repair shop owner, provided a dramatic account that played out against the backdrop of his impending wedding that brought Simpson and others to Las Vegas.
Scotto told of being cornered by the two gunmen in the case -Alexander and former co-defendant, Michael McClinton - during a party for the wedding couple at Stewart's home the night after the confrontation at the Palace Station casino hotel room. He said the two men demanded $50,000, and McClinton threatened violence if he wasn't paid.
Scotto quoted McClinton as saying, "You don't know me that well. ... I'll shoot everyone up."
District Attorney David Roger countered by accusing Scotto of telling Stewart he would "take out a contract" on Alexander's life, but he offered no evidence to support the allegation other than "a good faith belief."
"That's ridiculous," Scotto said.
Lawyers for Stewart called only one witness. Stewart's cousin, Linda Lockheart, said Stewart was elsewhere, entertaining friends at the time Simpson and others gathered to plan the confrontation.
AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch contributed to this
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)