OJ co-defendant takes plea deal in Las Vegas heist
LAS VEGAS – A one-time O.J. Simpson golfing buddy whose conviction in their 2007 armed robbery and kidnapping case was overturned in October took a plea deal Tuesday to be freed from prison and avoid a retrial.
Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, 56, stood in shackles before a Nevada judge and pleaded an equivalent of no contest to felony robbery and conspiracy. The so-called Alford plea didn’t admit guilt, but acknowledged that prosecutors could prove their case at trial.
“Mr. Stewart will be released after he pleads … with the understanding and agreement that he will begin house arrest,” his attorney Brent Bryson told the judge.
For his part, Stewart declared himself “guilty by way of the Alford plea.” He was released Tuesday evening, Bryson said.
Simpson is now the only person convicted in the case to remain in prison. Now 63, he’s more than two years into a nine- to 33-year sentence at Lovelock Correctional Center in northern Nevada.
Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass agreed Stewart can serve nine months of home detention in Louisiana to be near family members, if parole and probation officials in both states agree.
Stewart also faces an unspecified additional term of probation under terms of the plea deal worked out with prosecutors. Glass ordered Stewart released from the Clark County jail to house arrest in Las Vegas pending sentencing Jan. 11.
Clark County District Attorney David Roger said later he was satisfied the 27 months Stewart has served behind bars, plus the additional time restricted to home, was appropriate punishment for his role planning and taking part in the gunpoint robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers at a Las Vegas hotel.
“He was offered 30 months at the time of the trial. Another nine months will take him to 36 months,” the prosecutor said outside court. “For his role, it’s a fair resolution.”
“Mr. Simpson was the main culprit who formulated the plan and was the person who wanted to steal this property,” Roger added.
Glass sentenced Stewart after trial to 7 1/2 to 27 years in prison.
Simpson always maintained he was only after family photos, heirlooms and mementos that had been stolen from him following his acquittal on criminal charges in Los Angeles in the 1994 slayings of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
Four other men, including two gunmen, who took part in the Las Vegas robbery in a room at the Palace Station pleaded guilty. They testified against Simpson and Stewart and received varying sentences of probation. A middleman who arranged and recorded the meeting and later testified was never prosecuted.
Simpson – a former football star, movie actor, television pitchman and celebrity criminal defendant – was found guilty of 12 criminal charges including kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.
A three-justice Nevada Supreme Court panel in October upheld his conviction, and the court hasn’t ruled on a request for reconsideration.
Roger said he was confident the request would be denied.
In its separate ruling granting Stewart a new trial, the state high court ruled that Stewart didn’t get a fair jury trial because of Simpson’s notoriety.
Since then, Stewart had been unable to raise $150,000 bail to be released pending a new trial.
Simpson attorney Malcolm LaVergne said Tuesday he was glad Stewart was being freed and wished him well.
“Our petition for rehearing is still pending,” LaVergne said. “Mr. Simpson waits for it patiently.”