James Werrell

Don't make us go through that again

Please, don't make us sit through another O.J. Simpson trial.

I realize that, as people of free will, we are capable of turning off the TV or moving on to another story in the newspaper whenever Simpson's name comes up. The depth of our immersion in the new Simpson saga is something we can control.

But a complete quarantine seems out of the question. Everywhere we turn, he will be there, staring at us from the covers of tabloids in checkout lines, turning up every 12 minutes on the cable news shows, serving as the topic of discussion on the talk shows, his case endlessly dissected by a gaggle of legal analysts.

And, someday soon, we'll be seeing him back in a courtroom.

Or maybe not. Maybe, if we're lucky, Simpson will plead guilty to one of his lesser charges and walk away, out of the view of the cameras. Somewhere, if fate looks kindly upon us, out of sight, out of mind.

The details of the incident for which Simpson was arrested are sketchy. Apparently he and four others tried to retrieve some sports memorabilia from two collectors in Las Vegas. Simpson said the stuff belonged to him. Police reports say the two men were ordered at gunpoint to hand over the items.

Simpson was arrested and spent three nights in jail before being released. Bail was set at $125,000. Simpson, although he allegedly was not the one with the gun, has been charged with kidnapping, robbery with use of a deadly weapon, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, coercion with use of a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime.

The laundry list of charges is common. Prosecutors want to make sure they have something that will stick.

And it appears he did do something. But most or all of those involved, suspects and victims alike, are low-lifes, some with criminal records. Sorting out the truth won't be easy.

And, in the end, why should we care? Is this really the second chapter in the criminal life of O.J. Simpson or just another sleazy episode in a former celebrity's slide into degradation and eventual obscurity?

Perhaps we could work overtime to find some significance in this incident. Of course, that was easier in 1995 when Simpson still was a revered sports legend, when the charge was murder and the trial was viewed as a barometer of national race relations.

Since then, Simpson has been found liable for the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in a civil trial. He has slumped from one tawdry money-making scheme to another, the latest of which, a book titled, "If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer," is the tawdriest so far. And he has been in legal trouble, convicted of pirating satellite TV service three years ago.

This tumble from the pinnacle of fame might have been the stuff of tragedy if it weren't so well deserved. Simpson has conducted himself with the smugness of a man convinced that he got away with something. He offers no evidence that he repents anything. He seems unable to distinguish between fame and infamy.

So, instead of tragedy, this is farce. Simpson is a punchline, a fading headline, the subject of a trivia question: "What does O.J. stand for? Orenthal James, and that's good for two points."

The multiple charges Simpson now faces could put him away for life, and some, no doubt, would find poetic justice in that. Finally, he'd be in jail, where he belonged 12 years ago.

But this Vegas deal was a penny-ante shakedown. Simpson wasn't even the one with the gun. That's a pretty thin pretext for sending someone to jail for the rest of his life.

Can't we just be allowed to relegate Simpson to the past, to retain only a fleeting memory of, say, his attempt to try on the glove as a cultural marker of where we were 12 years ago? Couldn't we exile the current O.J. to the media desert, the land of nobodies who don't disturb the thoughts of decent people until someone writes their obituaries?

Couldn't we just skip another O.J. Simpson trial? Please!