OJ Simpson Co-Defendant Enters Plea in Las Vegas

By: Ken Ritter AP
By: Ken Ritter AP

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A fourth co-defendant pleaded guilty Monday in the O.J. Simpson armed robbery and kidnapping case, agreeing to testify against the Hall of Fame football player and one remaining co-defendant at their upcoming trial.

Charles Ehrlich, 54, pleaded guilty to reduced charges of attempted accessory to robbery and attempted burglary in a deal that could get him probation or up to five years in prison at sentencing after Simpson's trial.

"To both of those charges, how do you plead?" Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass asked.

"Guilty, your honor," Ehrlich said.

Simpson's lawyer, Yale Galanter, said he couldn't immediately assess the effect of the pleas, which come a month before the Sept. 8 start of trial for Simpson and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart.

"The story isn't Ehrlich taking a plea," Galanter told The Associated Press. "The story is what he says in his sworn testimony.

"If it's truthful, it would support Mr. Simpson's defense," Galanter said. "But getting this type of sweetheart deal this late in the game shows the prosecution is stretching to try to fill holes in an otherwise weak and crumbling case."

Clark County District Attorney David Roger declined comment outside court following Ehrlich's five-minute plea hearing.

Stewart's lawyer, Robert Lucherini, declined immediate comment when reached by telephone.

Court officials said he had filed a request in Las Vegas to the Nevada Supreme Court to sever Stewart's trial from Simpson's, but the documents had not yet been received by the state high court in Carson City.

Meanwhile, district court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer said the first 100 of 500 prospective jurors being summoned for the Simpson trial reported to court Monday to fill out questionnaires about their opinions, exposure to media coverage of the case, and their availability to serve during the estimated six-week trial.

Sommermeyer said 100 prospects a day would get questionnaires this week, and prosecutors and defense lawyers would meet with the judge behind closed doors on Aug. 25 to begin eliminating those deemed biased or unable to serve on a long trial.

Ehrlich's hastily scheduled court appearance on Monday came after a Thursday pretrial hearing at which Glass ordered a man to be subpoenaed to appear Aug. 25 with a recording that may contradict sworn testimony from another key witness against Simpson.

Ehrlich's lawyer, John Moran Jr., asked the judge on Thursday to make court staff aware that Ehrlich had a heart condition and carried medication, in case Ehrlich fell ill during trial.

Simpson and Stewart have pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon - charges that could put
them in prison for life if convicted.

Ehrlich, who lives in Miami, had faced the same charges. He was one of five men who allegedly accompanied Simpson during an armed confrontation last September with two sports memorabilia dealers at
a Las Vegas casino hotel room.

Ehrlich is the fourth former co-defendant to take a plea deal and agree to testify for the prosecution, along with the two collectibles peddlers whose items were taken and a middle man who arranged the meeting.

Moran noted that Ehrlich pleaded guilty to a lesser offense than former co-defendants Charles Cashmore, Walter Alexander and Michael McClinton.

Cashmore, 41, a journeyman union laborer from Las Vegas, pleaded guilty to felony accessory to robbery. He could receive probation or up to five years in prison.

Alexander, 47, of Mesa, Ariz., pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to commit robbery. He could face probation or up to six years in prison.

His lawyer, Robert Rentzer, said he was promised that Alexander would be sentenced to probation, and that "nobody would get a better deal than Walter."

McClinton, 50, of Las Vegas, pleaded guilty to robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, felonies that combined could get him probation or up to 11 years in prison.

McClinton testified that Simpson asked him to bring guns and "look menacing" during the confrontation with memorabilia dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley.

Simpson has maintained that he was trying to retrieve personal belongings and family heirlooms, and that no guns were involved.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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