Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Ex-Coitsville police chief testifies at O.J.'s hearing
The ex-Coitsville officer
was working the night the
robbery took place and was in charge of the tapes.
COITSVILLE Police Chief Michael Morris' twin brother, Allan, called before and after he testified at O.J. Simpson's preliminary hearing in Las Vegas.
"He was nervous. I told him he did good for having O.J. sitting right across from him," Michael Morris said. "I watched him on CNN and Court TV."
Allan Morris, 42, former assistant police chief in Coitsville, went to Las Vegas in 2003. He's surveillance supervisor for Palace Station casinos.
Simpson and others, including one or two armed with guns, are accused of entering a Palace Station hotel room and taking hundreds of sports memorabilia items from dealers Sept. 13. Simpson, 60, who claimed the items are his, is charged with kidnapping and armed robbery.
Allan Morris, when called to the witness stand last Friday, described a hotel video that showed Simpson and other men going through a lobby and past banks of slot machines to the room where the confrontation took place. He also described another video showing the group retracing its steps, with several members now carrying items out of the hotel.
As the videos played, Simpson leaned shoulder to shoulder between his lawyers to watch them on a monitor on the defense table.
"He was working the night the robbery took place and was in charge of the tapes," Michael Morris said Tuesday. "He had to testify to the contents of each video."
Allan Morris is expected to testify when the case goes to trial, his brother said.
On Tuesday during a preliminary hearing in Las Vegas, a friend and golfing partner of Simpson's testified that the former NFL star asked him to bring "heat" and back him up during the alleged robbery.
Walter Alexander, a 46-year-old real estate agent, also contradicted Simpson's statements that no one involved in the incident pulled out weapons at the time. Simpson at one point asked one of his associates to "chill" while waving a pistol before the group of men in the hotel room, said Alexander, who has struck a plea deal with prosecutors.
Earlier that day, Simpson, according to Alexander, asked Alexander if he could bring "heat" or a gun to the Palace Station during the effort to recover sports memorabilia.
"He asked if I could watch his back," Alexander said. "I said, 'No problem.'"
The former NFL star has said repeatedly that no one pulled out a weapon. Since the preliminary hearing got under way Thursday, however, witnesses have testified that two Simpson associates were armed and that one drew his gun.
But Thomas Riccio, an auctioneer who helped set up the Sept. 13 meeting, said Simpson was standing in front of the man who waved the gun and might not have seen him.
Whether Simpson knew his companions were armed could affect Justice of the Peace Joe M. Bonaventure's decision about whether there is enough evidence for Simpson, 60, to stand trial on charges that could send him to prison for life.
Simpson and two co-defendants Clarence J. Stewart Jr. and Charles B. Ehrlich, both 53 are charged with multiple felonies, including kidnapping and armed robbery. Alexander and two other men have agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges and testify against Simpson.
The alleged robbery began as a business deal between Simpson and Riccio, who had been contacted by memorabilia dealer Alfred Beardsley. Beardsley wanted to sell collectibles that had purportedly been taken from Simpson's trophy room and from his mother's storage locker.
Simpson who was acquitted in the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman wanted the signed footballs and awards back to keep them in his family, not because he wanted to sell them himself, Riccio said.
In return for helping Simpson, Riccio asked the Hall of Fame player and one-time USC star to sign 500 copies of "If I Did It," a book about the murders. Simpson agreed to sign 200.
For more than a month, they hashed out a plan to meet memorabilia dealer and "O.J. disciple" Beardsley, Riccio said. Simpson never mentioned a gun, he said.