O.J. Simpson smiling after acquitted in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman on Oct. 3, 1995.
( (AP Photo/Myung J. Chun))
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (CBS/AP) Who owns O.J.'s suit?
A judge ordered O.J. Simpson's former manager, Monday, to keep the former football star's so-called acquittal suit in storage until it is determined who rightfully owns it.
The Superior Court judge ruled after a contentious hearing that ultimately spilled into a courthouse hallway where the former manager, Mike Gilbert, and a lawyer for Fred Goldman exchanged heated accusations.
Goldman — the father of Ronald Goldman, who was slain alongside Simpson's ex-wife 15 years ago — is seeking to sell the suit Simpson wore to court when he was acquitted on murder charges to satisfy a $33.5 million civil judgment against Simpson.
Gilbert said Simpson gave him the suit the day after his Oct. 3, 1995, acquittal. He claims it is his property because Simpson had not yet been found civilly liable.
Gilbert told Goldman's lawyer David Cook in the hallway that Goldman had previously said his pursuit of Simpson was not about money.
"He said he wanted O.J. in jail and he has that now," Gilbert said of the Hall of Famer, who is in a Nevada prison for robbery and kidnapping.
"Money is justice," Cook shot back. "It's all we've got."
Simpson was convicted in Las Vegas last October in what he said was an effort to retrieve his stolen possessions including the infamous suit from memorabilia dealers.
In a strange courthouse reunion, two of the men who were in the Las Vegas hotel room the night Simpson was arrested showed up to argue they have a claim to the seized items. However, the judge did not address the petitions filed by Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong.
"I want my stuff back," Fromong said in a brief hallway interview. He said he felt responsible for Simpson being in prison and believes Goldman should be grateful to him. "I did what he couldn't do."
Gilbert presented Judge Gerald Rosenberg with an inventory of 20 items, the last one being the suit. He said all of them, including two Hall of Fame footballs and Simpson's Heisman Trophy, had been turned over to authorities — all except the suit.
The judge allowed Cook to question Gilbert under oath in a conference room about the whereabouts of the suit. Gilbert was cagy at first, telling Cook at one point that he did not know where it was, then conceding it was "somewhere in Fresno."
"What condition is it in?" asked Cook.
"I haven't seen it in awhile. There's no telling," said Gilbert.
But when he was brought before the judge he acknowledged he knew where it was.
"I have access to it," he said. "I should have worn it today."
"Mr. Gilbert, where is the suit?" asked Rosenberg.
"It's in storage in a locked facility in Fresno," he said.
Cook asked for the suit to be impounded, but the judge ordered Gilbert to keep it in storage until the ownership issue is resolved.
Simpson's attorney, Yale Galanter, said in a phone interview that the suit has never been authenticated.
"If the Goldmans want it, we don't care," he said. "But O.J. says it's a fake."
Asked outside court how much he expected to get for the suit, Cook said it was hard to tell because Simpson memorabilia is going for "bargain basement prices." He said he had heard estimates of $20,000 to $50,000.
He conceded that the prolonged legal proceedings that have been under way since December may be more costly to Goldman than anything that may be collected.
"Is there a concern about a Pyrhic victory? Yes there is," said Cook. "The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow may be empty."