By Linda Deutsch
The Associated Press
LAS VEGAS — When police detective Andy Caldwell heard that O.J. Simpson was a suspect in a robbery, he said he couldn't believe it.
The detective, who with his partner was the first to arrive at a casino hotel to investigate the alleged armed robbery, highlighted the impact Simpson's celebrity had on those assigned to the case.
"We wanted to make sure everything was right before we arrested him," he testified Wednesday. "Because of who it was, we felt we should go above and beyond."
After getting the case, Caldwell said surveillance was set up on Simpson and police waited to interview him. But Caldwell said he also began to interview the alleged victims as well as Thomas Riccio, the colorful collectibles broker who arranged the meeting between Simpson and two memorabilia dealers he believed had stolen his personal mementos.
The detective said he and Riccio immediately "butted heads."
"He was very interested in telling me a long, drawn out story. I didn't have time," he said. "He talked very fast, very loud. He wasn't following directions."
Caldwell said he considered arresting Riccio but dropping that idea when he heard accounts of the alleged robbery and found out that Riccio had recorded the confrontation.
The detective was due to complete his testimony Thursday.
Caldwell said it took eight days to negotiate with Riccio to turn over the digital recordings to police. By then, Riccio already had sold the recording to a gossip Internet site for about $100,000.
"And he said before he turned over the recordings that he wanted immunity?" asked attorney Brent Bryson, who represents co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart.
"Yes," Caldwell said.
"And you did an immunity deal?" he asked.
"Yes," said the detective.
Caldwell said he then spent weeks listening to more than 10 hours of recordings and trying to transcribe them. The recordings, which are to be played for jurors, also include phone conversations between Riccio and Simpson in which the former football player insisted that during the confrontation: "I never saw a gun. I would have never had anybody in with a gun."
In one conversation secretly taped by Riccio at a hotel where Simpson was staying, the former football great spoke of his plans to confront the memorabilia dealers.
"I just want my private pictures," Simpson said on the tape. "The rest of it I don't give a (expletive) about."
Simpson and Stewart have pleaded not guilty to 12 charges including armed robbery, kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon and coercion. A kidnapping conviction could result in a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole. An armed robbery conviction could mean mandatory prison time.
Riccio, who is in town waiting to testify, has said that prosecutors told him to expect to be on the stand for up to a day and a half.
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"I hope they don't just have to go by what I say," Riccio told The Associated Press. "All they have to do is listen to my tapes."