LAS VEGAS — The middleman who set up and taped the meeting of O.J. Simpson with two memorabilia dealers testified Monday he was paid $210,000 by media outlets before he gave police his recordings from the alleged armed robbery in a Las Vegas hotel room.
In cross-examination of Thomas Riccio, Simpson's lawyer, Yale Galanter, laid out Simpson's defense that the former football star did not intend to profit when he and a group of men confronted the two dealers over memorabilia but just wanted to retrieve personal mementos he said had been stolen from him.
"Did he ever say he wanted to sell it?" asked Galanter.
"No," said Riccio, who added that Simpson wanted the items as "heirlooms" to give to his children. Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of murdering his ex-wife and her friend after a high-profile trial.
Riccio, who also deals in memorabilia, said he arranged the Sept. 13, 2007, meeting and wanted to make as much money as he could before giving police the recorder he had hidden in the hotel room. That delay caused problems in authenticating the recordings, and FBI experts said they can't be sure they weren't altered.
Riccio said he was paid $150,000 by the gossip Web site TMZ, $25,000 by "Entertainment Tonight," $20,000 by a sponsor of Howard Stern's radio show and $15,000 by ABC under the guise of buying a photo of Riccio and Simpson.
It was the first time Riccio revealed how much he was paid and he did it reluctantly, saying he had contracts not to discuss it. Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass ordered him to disclose the figures.
Riccio, who was given immunity from prosecution, said he also wrote a book after the event but did not say how much he made from that.
Considered a sting
Galanter started his cross-examination, asking Riccio, "Has O.J. Simpson ever asked you to lie about the events that occurred at the Palace Station Hotel?"
"No," said Riccio.
He said Simpson never mentioned weapons in advance and told him repeatedly he had not seen a gun in the room.
"There is a chance he didn't," said Riccio. "I wouldn't bet my life either way."
Riccio said he arranged the meeting that led to armed robbery and kidnap charges against Simpson and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart. He said he had heard from one of the dealers, Alfred Beardsley, that Beardsley had family photographs and other Simpson items.
Riccio said he first went to authorities and told them that Beardsley was peddling stolen property but two police departments and the FBI in Los Angeles wanted no part of it.
"This guy admitted he had stolen property and no one cares," Riccio said.
He said he considered doing a "sting" on Beardsley in which TV cameras would come along. Riccio suggested a sting be conducted in Los Angeles but Simpson refused, saying his lawyers objected.
The prosecution has suggested that was because the items might be seized by Fred Goldman, father of Ronald Goldman who was slain along with Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole, in 1994. Although Simpson was acquitted of murder, Goldman won a judgment against Simpson in civil court which he has been unable to collect.
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