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O.J. Simpson: ‘This is far from over’

February 12, 1997

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ O.J. Simpson declared ``this is far from over″ Tuesday as the focus in his civil case shifted to how the football great might fend off a crushing $33.5 million jury award.

In a brief telephone conversation with The Associated Press, Simpson declined to discuss his next move in court or in life, saying: ``I don’t want to join in this circus atmosphere that’s out there at this time.″

``It would be premature for me to say anything now,″ he said. ``Obviously, I have feelings. But this is far from over.″

Later Tuesday, he went to a local golf course and played 18 holes.

Simpson has played golf nearly every day since a jury unanimously ruled him liable and ordered him to pay $8.5 million in the 1994 slashing deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. He even watched TV coverage of Tuesday’s $25 million punitive judgment against him from a golf course bar.

``He’s pretty good, not real good,″ longtime golfer Mark Borish said as he watched Simpson play the public Rancho Park links. ``If you play every day, you ought to get a little better at it.″

While Simpson played, his chief lawyer, Robert Baker, also kept his silence about how he will fight the combined $33.5 million award _ which is more than twice as much as even Simpson’s accusers say he could ever pay.

Within two weeks, Baker is expected to ask Superior Court Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki to set aside the verdict, order a new trial or reduce the award as excessive.

``The amounts are obviously very high and I would expect the courts to reduce those amounts to something more within the scope of other cases like this,″ Simpson lawyer Robert Blasier said on NBC’s ``Today Show.″

Asked if Simpson would be able to pay the judgment, Blasier said: ``I’ve been basically living with him for the last year, off and on, and I can tell you that the plaintiff experts who say that he can generate an income stream of $2 million to $3 million a year ... on autographs, is just ridiculous.″

President Clinton urged Americans to respect the Simpson verdict but said he is worried about the black and white divisions it exposed.

``In terms of the way Americans see the world differently, generally, based on their race, that troubles me,″ Clinton said. ``I think the only answer to that is for us to spend more time listening to each other and try to put ourselves in each other’s shoes.″

The jurors, meanwhile, went from talk show to talk show all day and said it was the Bruno Magli shoes, the blood drops, the glove, the hand cuts and Simpson’s failure to explain them all away that were the deciding factors in the verdict. They all insisted race played no role in their decisions.

``What it was, was about two brutal murders that took place,″ said Stephen Strati, foreman for the punitive-damage phase of the trial.

Simpson could file for bankruptcy immediately and stave off paying any judgments for perhaps as long as a year. Although bankruptcy would not free him of the debt, it would put the Goldman and Brown families in line behind other creditors for collecting their money.

To protect his assets from being seized while he appeals, Simpson will have to post a bond equal to 150 percent of the damages _ $50.25 million _ or find a bail bondsman willing to post it with collateral of 5 percent to 10 percent.

The value of a bankruptcy or bond is delay.

``It’s just postponing the day of reckoning,″ said civil lawyer Douglas Mirell. ``For him that may have value. There may be creative ways of further protecting his assets in the interim.″

As for the plaintiffs, lawyers for Goldman’s long-divorced parents, Fred Goldman and Sharon Rufo, will meet to work out an agreement on how to split the $8.5 million in compensatory damages.

On appeal, Simpson could raise issues of alleged jury misconduct based on the dismissal of a black juror during deliberations and on calls received by members of the jury from an agent offering to represent them at trial’s end.

But the chance that Fujisaki will grant Simpson a new trial is remote, Loyola University associate dean Laurie Levenson said. ``For a new trial, he has to show error that materially prejudiced the proceedings,″ she said.