The news media will take a break from its understandable Trump obsession tomorrow, and focus on whether an inmate in Nevada, convicted of serious, though largely victimless crimes, will get paroled. The reason for this is that the prisoner in question is O.J. Simpson, who is not only a football legend, but also a double-murderer who somehow got away with it.
The bizarre and hilarious story of how Simpson ended up getting convicted over what he thought was an attempt to get back his own memorabilia has been fairly well chronicled. ABC’s 20/20 recently did an excellent review of it, which featured Mediaite’s founder Dan Abrams.
There are some elements of this dark comedy, however, that have never been fully discussed publicly. I know this because — according the guy whose stuff Simpson was convicted of stealing –I played a small but rather significant role in how the whole thing went down.
This person was Alfred Beardsley. He is largely the forgotten man of this Simpson saga, even though he was literally at the center of the whole episode (a lot of my story is verified in this interview with the man who was with Beardsley that night).
What the public doesn’t realize about what happened ten years ago in that seedy Las Vegas hotel room is that it was actually many years in the making. It was also a direct result of the heroic efforts of the family of Ron Goldman, one of the two people who Simpson brutally murdered, to make sure that O.J. suffered some semblance of consequences for what he did.
Fred and Kim Goldman never let up on the pressure to squeeze “The Juice” in their attempt to get him to pay the massive civil trial judgement that they won against him. This forced Simpson to go underground and deal with far less reputable people in an attempt to make money in ways which he could keep away from them.
The easiest way for Simpson to do this was through signing memorabilia for cash. We now know that he basically paid for his criminal defense from jail through an underhanded system set up by his then agent Mike Gilbert, who, in my opinion, shoulders a lot of the blame for this entire episode.
In Simpson’s attempt to hide his belongings from the Goldmans, however, he allowed both Gilbert, and then later Beardsley, to believe that he had given them some of those items as payment for their help in his scheme to scam Fred and Kim. This would end up directly triggering what would happen years later in Las Vegas.
Eventually, Simpson got the gall to schedule a public memorabilia signing in Burbank, California. As fate would have it, the shop scheduled to sponsor it was about 600 yards from my apartment while I was a host at the then number one talk station in the county, KFI-AM.
When I heard about this outrage, I immediately went to confront the owner of the small store. I told him that he had two choices. He could either cancel the event, or he could have me organize protests outside of his business. He told me that I should speak to the guy who was actually organizing the signing and gave me his phone number.
That was Alfred Beardsley.
I immediately had Beardsley on my show in order to try to convince him that this was a really bad idea. At first, he insisted that the show would go on no matter what I did and I bet him $1,000 (which I pledged to give to the Goldmans, who I knew because I dated Ron’s sister, Kim) that he was wrong and that I would shut it down by any means necessary.
Eventually, it turned out I was right and the signing was scrapped. Beardsley ultimately paid me $100 (he lamely claimed he thought that was the bet) and I proudly gave the check to Ron’s father Fred. But, unbeknownst to me, something else far more significant was going on behind the scenes of this debacle.
You see Beardsley had a partner in this endeavor named Thomas Riccio. Riccio, I would later learn, was incensed at Beardsley for having botched the Burbank Simpson signing and, no longer trusting him, decided to start recording all of their interactions in the future. Beardsley later told me that he was convinced this was the primary reason that Riccio made the recording of the Las Vegas heist, which ended up providing the evidence which convicted Simpson.
Ricco, a felon with a long rap sheet, is a horrible excuse for a human being and the real villain of this whole fiasco. I first ran into him when he decided to retry a Los Angeles-area Simpson signing event at, I kid you not, a horror convention.
Leading up to that situation, I also had Riccio on my show and he vowed not to cancel it, but also promised to allow me to have unrestricted access to the place should I want to challenge Simpson directly. This turned out to be a complete lie and, in retrospect, an obvious set up.
When I got there with my co-host and producer, a group of LAPD officers was already waiting in case there was a disturbance. When I asked them whether “the killer” had arrived yet, a black officer, no lie, responded, “No, but we have already planted a bloody glove just in case we need it.”
What transpired next was insane. Riccio not only greatly restricted my movement but he, rather ironically, prevented me from recording interviews with prospective customers in line to pay for the privilege of an autograph from a double murderer of totally innocent people.
I was able to briefly confront Simpson when he arrived, but knowing that he wouldn’t tell me anything of substance, my main goal was to disrupt the event enough so that no one else would ever try to host one again. Then, despite at least 85 degree temperatures inside the poor excuse for an exhibit center, I got into what amounted to a half-hour long rugby scrum with Riccio’s security goons. I would later learn that the whole time this was happening Simpson was hiding behind a door just a few feet away.
Eventually, the police asked me to break it up (I was rightly confident that they were going to give me very wide latitude to mess with Simpson and I wasn’t close to being arrested) and I did. The signing went on and, perhaps partly because what we did created some national news, there was never another one like it.
Then, in 2007, when I saw the headlines about Simpson being arrested in a robbery of memorabilia I instantly knew that either Beardsley or Riccio had to be intimately involved. It turned out that they both were.
Riccio, in what he has basically admitted was a premediated effort to set up Simpson (perhaps because he felt ripped off at the horror convention?) and probably screw with Beardsley, had orchestrated the meeting. Simpson thought that he was going to get some stuff that he assumed belonged to him (though it is important to point out that much of what he took clearly did not) and Beardsley believed that he was going to meet someone interested in buying O.J. collectables.
This all proved to be a combustible combination. When eight hyped up guys, two guns, and a recording device all converged in a tiny hotel room, serious crimes were clearly committed.
As much as I disdain Simpson, I agree with those who say that he has already been punished more for this law-breaking than any other human would have been under identical conditions. But I also believe that this is one of those truly unique circumstances where it would not be a precedent-setting situation if one “injustice” was continued in order to make up for a far larger one.
As for Beardsley, I often think of him. He was a VERY strange man who I once despised, but for whom I learned to have empathy. Bizarrely, I think he once thought of me as one of his best friends. The day after the robbery he called me at least a dozen times asking me for my advice, and he even did his first live interview after the event on my radio show.
The weirdest part of this whole thing is that Beardsley LOVED O.J. Simpson and if the killer had simply asked him for his stuff back and agreed to sign a few balls for him, I’m positive that none of it would have happened, (though, for the sake of justice, I’m glad that it did).
Beardsley died a sad death after a long illness in 2015. His obituary didn’t even mention the robbery.
He missed all the attention last year that this story garnered because of the O.J.: Made in America documentary. If he was alive today, he would probably be rooting for Simpson to be let out of prison so that he could be the first person to get him to sign a football.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.