Sunday, Sept. 14, 2008 | 9:49 a.m.
No cake, no candles and no champagne marked this occasion: the anniversary of the day O.J. Simpson and four others allegedly raided a hotel room was observed quietly at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino.
The room where the event in question took place remained dark, locked-up and silent Saturday. Though rooms in the hotel’s two-story courtyard were sold-out, room 1203 was left vacant.
Concierge said the double room was not occupied but not available, either. Courtyard rooms are usually priced from $29 a night.
An employee at the check-in desk suggested the room was awaiting maintenance of some sort. A member of the custodial staff said she knew room 1203 needed work.
A large hole in the drywall near the door hasn’t been repaired in nearly a year, she said. “They put wallpaper over it but it’s still hollow,” she explained.
Several staff members said guests frequently ask about the room and the bizarre series of events that supposedly took place inside – yet the details and circumstances of what happened in the modest room on Sept. 13, 2007, remain largely up for interpretation.
The former NFL star says he and the others went to the room to retrieve items that belonged to him. He has also said no guns were involved – but others remember differently.
As a result, Simpson now faces a dozen weapons, robbery and kidnapping-related charges and a possible life sentence, if convicted.
Dee Alvarado, 36, was unaware that she was staying at the same hotel where the contentious events took place a year ago.
“It’s kind of weird,” she said after being told what happened at the same hotel 365 days ago. “Now I’m wondering how good security is,” she said as she played a Double Diamond slot machine on the casino floor.
Keith Miller, meanwhile, was fully aware of the hotel’s Simpson-related notoriety. “I know, basically, something happened here … and there were some strong-arm tactics,” he said while taking a break from gambling inside Jack's Irish Pub.
The 51-year-old Canyon Lake, Calif. resident had little sympathy for Simpson. “Given his history, I don’t think he is very smart,” Miller said as he watched the USC - Ohio State football game with some friends.
“I think he’s guilty. Stupid and guilty,” he added, suggesting that if Simpson wanted to retrieve items that had been stolen from him, as he has said, the Heisman Trophy winner should have contacted law enforcement to have the items recovered legally.
Miller thinks Simpson will be convicted in the coming weeks, but thinks a possible life sentence, which both of the kidnapping with the use of a deadly weapon charges that Simpson faces could bring, would be extreme.
Instead, Miller thinks 10 to 15 years in prison would be appropriate.
Monique Jones thinks the whole thing has been blown out of proportion.
“They shouldn’t make a big-*ss deal out of it, it was his stuff,” she said.
Jones was unaware that the hotel was the scene of the alleged crime, but did know the Oyster Bar makes a great shrimp gumbo.
“He should have a right to have all his sh*t back,” she said between spoonfuls of seasoned shrimp and rice. “It was his, he worked for it.”
Simpson has said he and the other men only took items that belonged to him, and to his knowledge, no weapons were involved. But the two memorabilia dealers who say they were robbed at gunpoint, Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong, say many of the $80,000 to $100,000 worth of items taken never belonged to the former NFL star.
If that is the case, Jones thinks Simpson should face consequences.
Still, the 23-year-old Henderson resident said jail time would be more punishment than what fits the crime. She thinks a monetary fine would be more fitting.
Four seats over, however, Jim Kloss felt differently and had no problem expressing his position.
“I hope he gets convicted, I hope he goes to jail . . . ,” the 48-year-old said.
The Phoenix-based civil insurance defense lawyer believes “there’s no question” that Simpson got away with murder in 1995, when he was acquitted in the killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
And there’s not a doubt in his mind that Simpson did the crime and will soon do the time in this latest case, as well.
“I think they got him this time,” he said. “He’s going down.”
Simpson isn’t the only one who might go to jail because of the alleged raid.
One of the other men who joined him on the fateful night last September, Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, of North Las Vegas, faces the same charges as his former golfing buddy.
The three other men who accompanied Simpson and Stewart that night, Michael McClinton, Charles Ehrlich and Walter Alexander, have struck plea bargains and will testify against Simpson and Stewart in exchange for lesser charges.
The accused will be in court Monday, when their joint trial begins with opening statements.
The jury is expected to deliver their verdict in four to five weeks.