O.J. Simpson asked two companions to bring guns when they and three other men went to a Las Vegas hotel room to retrieve memorabilia the former star NFL running back claims was stolen and about to be sold by two collectors, one of the men told TODAY in an exclusive interview.
“To my recollection there were two individuals with guns. One was brandished, the other had it on his person,” Charles “Chuck” Cashmore told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer on Tuesday.
Cashmore, a day laborer, says that he got involved in the Sept. 13 incident totally by happenstance.
“I did not know Mr. Simpson before that evening,” he said. “A mutual friend of ours asked me if I wanted to meet the gentleman. I just had a cocktail with him and it went from there.”
Cashmore said he had no idea what was in store when Simpson asked him to go along to the Palace Station Hotel & Casino.
“I was just asked to help a friend get some of his stuff back,” he said.
Simpson has been charged with multiple crimes, including armed robbery and kidnapping, that could put him in jail for life if convicted. He has maintained his innocence, claiming he was only trying to recover his own property.
Cashmore, 40, pleaded guilty on Monday to a charge of being an accessory to a robbery and has agreed to cooperate with Las Vegas prosecutors in their case against Simpson.
Another of Simpson’s co-defendants, Walter Alexander, has also pleaded guilty and has agreed to testify that Simpson asked him to bring the firearm. Alexander admitted to carrying a gun that he had stuffed in his waistband.
Inside the hotel room, memorabilia dealers Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong were waiting with a trove of Simpson memorabilia that Simpson says was stolen from his residence years earlier by a former agent.
The meeting was arranged by another memorabilia dealer and auctioneer, Tom Riccio, who told Beardsley and Fromong that he had a collector who was eager to pay top dollar for the items.
In a previous interview on TODAY, Beardsley had said that Simpson and five other men burst into the room, at least one of whom pulled a gun out and claimed to be a police officer. Cashmore confirmed to Lauer previous reports that the man who acted like a cop was Simpson friend Michael McClinton.
Beardsley said that after searching and threatening him and Fromong, the men carried the memorabilia out of the room.
Hotel security cameras recorded the men carrying boxes of items out of the hotel, and Beardsley recorded the incident on a tape that he sold to TMZ.com, the celebrity gossip Web site.
“It was kind of a blur,” Cashmore told Lauer.
Asked what he felt when he saw a gun drawn, Cashmore said: “It seemed to escalate a little higher than it should have. At that point in time, I was just basically in shock.”
Cashmore went home after the incident, turning himself in to police six days later. In 1996, he had been charged with felony theft by embezzlement in Utah and was sentenced to probation after accepting a deal to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.
His attorney in the Simpson case, Edward Miley, said Cashmore erred in not turning himself in immediately. “In hindsight, he should have turned himself in,” Miley said.
Lauer asked if Simpson, who witnesses say was not armed, was being singled out by prosecutors while Alexander, who admits to having a gun, was offered a plea bargain.
Miles said he did not believe that was the case.
“Mr. Cashmore is expected to testify that O.J. Simpson asked them to bring firearms, and I think that's why the district attorney's office was so interested in talking to Mr. Alexander,” the attorney said.
Cashmore did not describe the conversation where Simpson allegedly asked the men to bring firearms. He did explain that he did not go immediately to the police because he eventually realized Simpson and the memorabilia dealers were acquainted.
“To me, they all seemed to know each other by the conversation that went on,” he said. “I thought it was just friends; that it would basically blow over.”