Archive for Friday, October 19, 2001

Simpson lawyer calls other driver ‘madman’

October 19, 2001

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— O.J. Simpson's road-rage trial opened Thursday with prosecutors saying the former football star angrily snatched the glasses off a driver during a confrontation in their neighborhood last year.

The incident happened after Simpson rolled through a stop sign and the other driver honked and flashed his lights at him, authorities said.

O.J. Simpson, left, with attorneys Lee Cohn, center, and Craig
Brand, far right, reacts after a sidebar conference is called
during his road-rage trial in Miami. Simpson faces up to 16 years
in prison if convicted of felony auto burglary and misdemeanor
battery charges stemming from an encounter with a motorist on Dec.
4, 2000.

O.J. Simpson, left, with attorneys Lee Cohn, center, and Craig Brand, far right, reacts after a sidebar conference is called during his road-rage trial in Miami. Simpson faces up to 16 years in prison if convicted of felony auto burglary and misdemeanor battery charges stemming from an encounter with a motorist on Dec. 4, 2000.

Prosecutor Abbe Rifkin told the jury in opening statements that Simpson got out of his vehicle and shouted, "So I blew the stop sign. What are you going to do? Kill me and my kids?"

Simpson's lawyer countered that the other driver, Jeffrey Pattinson, had acted like "a madman."

The charges of auto burglary and battery carry a possible 16-year prison sentence. The trial before the eight-member jury is expected to last about two days.

The incident happened in a suburban Miami neighborhood last December.

Simpson allegedly approached Pattinson's sport utility vehicle, reached in and pulled off his glasses, scratching Pattinson's forehead.

The evidence is expected to include Simpson's thumbprint on the glasses.

Defense attorney Yale Galanter described a much different version of what happened. He said both men got out of their SUVs and Pattinson was holding his glasses in his hand when Simpson brushed against them.

The defense attorney also said Pattinson had pursued his neighbor, repeatedly honking his horn and flashing the lights.

"Mr. Simpson didn't do anything wrong. Pattinson's actions in this case were those of a madman," Galanter said. Pattinson "gets out and starts screaming, cursing and letting Mr. Simpson know how upset he is."

On Thursday, police officer Ruth Dobson, who took Pattinson's report after he called authorities, gave conflicting testimony about whether Simpson struck Pattinson.

Simpson "physically reached into the vehicle and hit him on the left side of the face," Dobson told the prosecutor. Pressed by the defense, she said, "I don't remember if he used the word 'struck."'

Simpson's teen-age son and daughter were in his SUV during the incident.

Simpson moved to Florida last year. He was cleared of murder in the Los Angeles slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, but a civil jury later held him responsible for the slayings and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages.

Before court convened Thursday, Simpson said he was up late the night before celebrating daughter Sydney's 16th birthday. His gift was a Lexus, which she drove to the homes of several friends.

Asked if he taught her to drive, Simpson said with a chuckle, "Yup, and I taught her to never stop."

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