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October 31, 2014

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O.J. co-defendant gets bail before new Vegas trial

I feel like I will be vindicated,’ says Simpson’s golf buddy Clarence Stewart

Click to enlarge photo

Photo of Clarence "C.J." Stewart after his conviction.

Click to enlarge photo

O.J. Simpson.

A former O.J. Simpson co-defendant facing a new trial in their 2007 robbery-kidnapping case said he is disappointed in the former football star for not clearing his name.

Clarence "C.J." Stewart said his former golfing partner ruined his life.

"I wish him well, but first he must come forth and clear my name," Stewart told The Associated Press by telephone Thursday from a Nevada prison where he is serving 7 1/2 to 27 years.

"I was used and abused," Stewart said. "I was misled and surprised that he didn't clear my name. He has left a bad shadow over me."

Stewart, 56, said he will prove his innocence with or without Simpson's help.

After Stewart was tried together with Simpson, the Nevada Supreme Court reversed Stewart's conviction in October, saying the combined trial "prejudiced Stewart by having a substantial and injurious effect on the verdict."

Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass on Thursday rejected a request from Stewart's lawyer, Brent Bryson, to have him released without bail.

Clark County District Attorney David Roger asked for bail to be set at $1 million.

"The jury slam-dunked this defendant," Roger said. "Now, more than ever, he is a flight risk."

The judge declared Stewart a flight risk because he knows what he faces in prison if he is convicted again. She set bail at $150,000.

Stewart appeared by video from Northern Nevada Correctional Center. He telephoned his ex-wife, Teresa Wuertemburg, minutes later to ask that she raise the bail and agreed to speak with the AP.

No trial date was immediately set. Roger sought 30 days to allow time to talk with Stewart about a plea agreement. He would not comment on any potential negotiations.

Bryson, however, said he believes Roger would be open to an agreement if Stewart agrees to plead guilty to multiple felonies.

"The best deal I would hope for is that he doesn't have to do anymore time, obviously," Bryson said. "I rarely think it's in someone's best interest to go to trial."

Stewart said he was not interested in cutting a deal.

"Mr. Roger knows I am an innocent man," Stewart said. "I have no fear in proving my innocence. I feel like I will be vindicated."

He said witnesses who testified against him at trial have since told him they were pressured to make damaging statements against him. He hopes new evidence will clear his name and would like Simpson to confirm that he was not involved in the robbery.

Simpson's lawyers said it was not in Simpson's best interest to comment on the case.

"We wish Mr. Stewart well," said Simpson attorney Yale Galanter. "We are happy that the court granted him bond ... We are hopeful that this will all work out for him."

Simpson's lawyers are also trying to have his conviction overturned, but have not been successful so far.

The same court that overturned Stewart's conviction determined that Simpson's case did not merit a rehearing. Simpson's lawyers have appealed the decision.

Malcolm LaVergne, another Simpson lawyer, said the all-white jury was prejudice against Simpson for his 1994 double-murder acquittal. Both Simpson and Stewart are black.

LaVergne said Simpson wants the same opportunity as Stewart to prove his innocence.

"I am very surprised and very shocked," LaVergne said. "How do you let one guy go and keep one guy in jail when they were basically subject to the same case?"

Simpson, 63, is serving nine to 33 years at a state prison in Lovelock, 90 miles northeast of Reno.

Simpson and Stewart were convicted in 2008 and sent to prison for an armed confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers at a Las Vegas casino-hotel.

Stewart and Simpson were convicted of kidnapping, armed robbery, conspiracy and other crimes for what Simpson insisted was an attempt to retrieve stolen family photos and mementoes from memorabilia dealers.

Prosecutors claim Stewart, Simpson and four other men ambushed the dealers, then swiped pillow cases stuffed with the memorabilia.

The four other men took plea deals and testified against Simpson and Stewart. None served prison time.

A middle man, Thomas Riccio, made $210,000 selling audio recordings of the robbery to media outlets before turning them over to Las Vegas police. In exchange, he was granted immunity from prosecution.

Wurtemburg said Stewart and Simpson were never close friends, but played golf together when Simpson visited Las Vegas.

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| (December 10, 2010)