Key OJ Simpson witness clutches chest in court

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – A key witness in O.J. Simpson's kidnap and robbery trial became ill on Monday while testifying about a hotel room confrontation at the heart of the case — clutching his chest before bailiffs helped him from the witness stand.

Bruce Fromong, a sports dealer who says Simpson and his accomplices robbed him of memorabilia worth thousands of dollars at the Palace Station hotel and casino last September, was treated by paramedics outside the courtroom for dizziness and overheating.

Fromong, who has suffered four heart attacks, was the first witness in the case. He told jurors that Simpson had stormed into a hotel room with five men, two of them armed, shouting about "stolen stuff" before leaving with the memorabilia crammed into pillow cases.

A court spokesman said it was not clear if Fromong would be able to resume his testimony on Tuesday in a case that could send Simpson, 61, and his co-defendant Charles "CJ" Stewart, to prison for life.

"When (Simpson) first came through the door he stopped, then he proceeded into the room and started hollering at everyone," said Fromong, who has known Simpson since before his world famous Los Angeles murder trial and helped sell memorabilia.

"He was just yelling about how this is his stuff, how could you steal my stuff, I thought you were an OK guy, how could you steal my s—," Fromong said. "He said: ‘Don’t let anybody leave this room, nobody gets out of here.’ "

Under questioning by a defense lawyer, Fromong became tearful as he described himself as Simpson’s one-time "best friend" whose feelings had been hurt by the hotel room confrontation.

Simpson sat stone-faced at the defense table as the sports memorabilia dealer sniffled and dabbed his eyes.

 

‘WRITE THE FINAL CHAPTER’

Fromong acknowledged under cross-examination that Simpson, who along with Stewart faces a dozen criminal charges, did not have a gun in the hotel room and never struck or menaced him physically.

Earlier in the day, prosecutor Christopher Owens told jurors during his opening statement the Las Vegas incident grew out of grudges Simpson has nursed since his murder trial and civil case more than a decade ago.

Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman were stabbed and slashed to death on June 12, 1994. Simpson’s year-long murder trial transfixed much of the world before a Los Angeles jury found him not guilty.

A civil court jury later found Simpson responsible for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages to the victims’ families, a judgment that remains largely unpaid.

Owens seemed to invoke the Los Angeles case when he urged jurors to ultimately convict Simpson, 61, and Stewart, 54.

"Ladies and gentlemen you are the jurors in this case and the final story is going to be told by you," Owens told the nine-woman, three-man panel. "You will be able to write that final chapter, the chapter of arrogance and hypocrisy and that will be the true verdict. The verdict you can feel good about."

Defense attorney Yale Galanter began his opening remarks by objecting to that suggestion, reminding the jury that District Court Judge Jackie Glass has told them not to be influenced by Simpson’s murder case.

"This case, as Judge Glass has instructed you so many times I have lost count, is not about what occurred in California," Galanter said. "This is not about writing a book and writing a last chapter about Mr. Simpson and his life nor should it be."

Of the six original defendants in the Las Vegas case, four have agreed to plead guilty and testify against Simpson.