O.J. Simpson's best friend speaks for the first time

Charlie Ehrlich calls OJ Simpson his best friend and said he ended up in the Palace Station hotel room in 2007 because Simpson asked him to do him a favor.
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LAS VEGAS (KVVU/CNN) -- On Sept.13, 2007, O.J. Simpson led five men into a hotel room at Palace Station in Las Vegas. Two of them had guns. Charlie Ehrlich was inside the room when the men pulled out the weapons.

"He takes out the gun, and doesn't flash it around but he takes it out where you can see it," Ehrlich said. "I don't think O.J. saw it because [the men with the guns] were behind him."

Ehrlich calls Simpson his best friend and said he ended up in the hotel room because Simpson asked him to do him a favor. The two were in Las Vegas for a friend's wedding, and Ehrlich said that when they were spending time at a pool one day, a man approached Simpson.

That man was Thomas Riccio, and Ehrlich said Riccio told Simpson there were guys in town selling Simpson's stolen stuff.

"O.J.'s very loud! There must have been 30 people at the bar," Ehrlich said.

Ehrlich said Simpson asked him to do something.

"'I want you to be a buyer and just let me know if this guy Riccio is telling the truth,'" Ehrlich recalled Simpson saying.

The plan, according to Ehrlich, was for he and Simpson's friend Charles Cashmore to go to the Palace Station, where the memorabilia was, observe the belongings and report back to Simpson. Ehrlich said Simpson was never supposed to come inside the hotel.

"I looked down the hall and I see O.J. and these two black guys who I've never met before," Ehrlich said. .

Ehrlich said he remembers Simpson marching in with the two sharply dressed men, then Riccio coming down the elevator and taking them all upstairs to where the men were showing Simpson's stuff.

What no one knew at the time was Riccio was recording everything and had been for days, including inside the hotel room where the exchange took place.

On one of the recordings you can hear a clearly furious Simpson say: "You [expletive], you think you can steal my [expletive]? I trusted you, man!"

We asked Ehrlich what prompted Simpson to change his mind and come into the hotel. He said he has no idea, but Simpson's former manager, Norman Pardo, said Simpson was after prized pictures that had been missing for years.

"He had a daughter who died in a swimming pool accident when she was 2; they took those pictures," Pardo said. "They were personal pictures, the only ones he had."

In court, Simpson's lawyer backed up that claim. Ehrlich said he remembers footballs and photos being taken from the room, and said from there they went back to his suite at the Palms.

"He [Simpson] goes and he sits in a chair, and he slumps over, and goes, 'I'm going to need a lawyer. I [expletive] up,'" Ehrlich said.

The two men who brought the guns into the Palace station were sentenced to probation.

Riccio, the man who set up the exchange and secretly recorded the entire event, was not charged and sold the recordings for nearly $200,000.

"[Riccio] is the guy who should be in jail! He's the one who set everything up. He's the one who got O.J. juiced up," Ehrlich said. "[Riccio] ruined everyone's life!"

Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping. Ehrlich said thinking about Simpson is painful.

"If you had looked at his face, right before sentencing, and he said, 'Your honor, I'm sorry. I messed up. I never should've done what I did.' I saw for the first time he was scared," Ehrlich said.

Nevada Department of Corrections photo of O.J. Simpson.