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O.J. friend testifying for defense in Vegas trial
OJ Simpson NVJH116 4992610
O.J. Simpson appears during his trial at the Clark County Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas, Monday, Sept., 29, 2008. Simpson faces 12 charges, including felony kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy. - photo by Associated Press

    LAS VEGAS — A close friend of O.J. Simpson took the stand in his armed robbery and kidnapping trial Wednesday, and a prosecutor said he’ll ask the witness about allegations he wanted to put out a murder contract on a former co-defendant.
    ‘‘I just want to put everybody on notice,’’ Clark County District Attorney David Roger told Judge Jackie Glass during a brief hearing before the jury returned to the courtroom and Thomas Scotto took the stand in the 12th day of trial testimony.
    ‘‘I’m going to ask Mr. Scotto about putting a contract out on (Walter) Alexander,’’ Roger said.
    The prosecutor referred to allegations that Scotto, 46, a North Miami Beach, Fla., auto repair shop owner, told Simpson co-defendant Clarence ‘‘C.J.’’ Stewart in January that he wanted Alexander dead.
    Alexander, 47, of Mesa, Ariz., testified last week that Simpson told him and another friend to carry guns when they went with Simpson to take back allegedly stolen items from two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas casino hotel room.
    Simpson and Stewart have pleaded not guilty to 12 criminal charges, including armed robbery and kidnapping. Each man could face five years to life in prison if convicted in the Sept. 13, 2007, confrontation.
    Charles Jones, a lawyer for Stewart, began questioning Scotto about allegations that a ‘‘couple of state witnesses’’ tried to extort payments from him in return for favorable testimony in the case.
    Simpson came to Las Vegas to serve as a best man in Scotto’s Sept. 15, 2007, wedding.
    Scotto did not accompany Simpson from the Palms resort pool to the alleged armed robbery in a Palace Station casino hotel room; he was preparing for his wedding at the time. But Scotto’s name was heard on audio recordings played for the jury during the first 11 days of testimony in the case.
    Scotto also served as go-between and banker for Simpson after Simpson’s Sept. 16, 2007, arrest, and following his re-arrest in January when he was accused of violating terms of his bail release.
    The prosecution rested Monday, and the courtroom was dark Tuesday for a scheduled day off. The jury will begin deliberating after closing arguments that Glass said could come as early as Thursday.
    Simpson’s lawyers said Scotto could be their last witness. Outside court, defense lawyers said no decisions had been made whether Simpson or Stewart would testify.
    Stewart’s lawyers said they expect to call several witnesses, including Simpson’s daughter, Arnelle Simpson, 39. Arnelle Simpson was with O.J. Simpson when he met with Alexander and acknowledged gunman Michael McClinton in Simpson’s room at the Palms resort before the alleged armed robbery at Palace Station, several miles away.
    Alexander and McClinton were among four men who accompanied Simpson and Stewart to the confrontation and later took plea deals to plead guilty to lesser charges and testify against Simpson.
    McClinton, 50, of Las Vegas, was the last prosecution witness Monday. He told the jury he brought a gun at Simpson’s request and displayed it near his chest during the six-minute confrontation with memorabilia dealers Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong.
    Simpson claims he never asked anyone to bring guns and never saw guns in the room. Stewart maintains he relied on Simpson’s assertions that he was going to the Palace Station to retrieve personal items that had been stolen from him.
    ———
    AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch contributed to this report.

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