In book: O.J.'s entourage had a gun

April 7, 2008 6:16:18 PM PDT
Thomas Riccio, the memorabilia dealer who arranged O.J. Simpson's ill-fated meeting in a Las Vegas hotel room, says in a book released Monday that the former football star's entourage carried at least one gun, even though Simpson tried afterward to tell him otherwise.

"He was trying to convince me a gun wasn't involved, but that was ridiculous," Riccio says in the book "Busted," which he and his publisher, Phoenix Books, tout as an inside account of events leading to Simpson's arrest in the botched Sept. 13 heist.

"I was standing right next to the guy with the gun," Riccio says. "Some reports claim there may have been a second gunman in the room, but I only witnessed one."

Riccio acknowledged the 212-page book breaks little new ground.

"Maybe there's nothing really surprising in it," Riccio told The Associated Press by telephone from New York, where he planned a news conference and television appearances Tuesday.

"But as far as the O.J. thing, it's amazing how many people don't know quite what happened," he said.

Simpson has maintained that no guns were used and that he only wanted to retrieve his belongings when he and five other men confronted two sports memorabilia dealers in the meeting Riccio arranged in a hotel room at the Palace Station casino.

Simpson and two co-defendants face kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy charges carrying the possibility of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Riccio bluntly declares in the book that he is "out to make as much money as I can off this incident," and says he doesn't care what others think. Riccio has acknowledged peddling audio recordings of the hotel room confrontation to a celebrity Web site.

"I don't believe O.J. wanted anyone to get hurt," Riccio says, adding that he thinks Simpson "believed that there was no other recourse than to do it the way he did."

"Nobody was kidnapped," Riccio declares, rejecting the most serious counts in the case. He says adding that if Simpson is found guilty of having plotted to have guns brought to the room, he "should probably do some sort of prison time, but certainly nowhere near the life sentence he is now facing."

A spokeswoman for Riccio's publisher said Riccio was just trying to help Simpson get back items that he says were stolen from publicist for the book. Ammond and Riccio said Riccio's writing contract was modest, but declined to provide figures. Ammond said Phoenix Books of Beverly Hills, Calif., printed 25,000 copies.

The book was released on the same day the case was scheduled to go to trial, though the trial has since been postponed to Sept. 8.

Simpson lawyer Yale Galanter dismissed any effect the book might have on the trial.

"What he says in the book doesn't really mean anything to me," Galanter said from his office in Miami. "It's not sworn testimony."

Riccio, 45, who testified in a preliminary hearing in November, was granted immunity from prosecution in the case.

Much of the book details his childhood and the shadowy world of sports memorabilia deals. He skims over his arrests and federal imprisonments in Danbury, Conn., and Terminal Island, Calif., and a state prison stint in Soledad, Calif.

Riccio describes selling diaries that once belonged to Anna Nicole Smith, the celebrity former Playboy playmate who died in February 2007 at age 39. He also drops other famous names with stories about scandals that he says he's heard, though he offers little firsthand insight.