Ruling keeps OJ Simpson casino defamation claim before judge

January 27, 2020

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A court officer says a Nevada judge, not a private arbitrator, should hear O.J. Simpson's defamation lawsuit against the Las Vegas Strip hotel-casino he blames for published accounts that he was drunk and disruptive before being banned from the property.

Representatives of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas didn't immediately respond to messages asking whether they'll appeal a Monday ruling by a pretrial commissioner that keeps the case in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas.

The Cosmopolitan and corporate owner Nevada Property 1 LLC argue the former football star can't be defamed because his reputation was already tarnished by his criminal and civil trials in the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend in Los Angeles decades ago and his conviction and imprisonment in Nevada in his 2007 armed robbery case.

Simpson blames unnamed hotel staff for telling celebrity website TMZ that he was prohibited from returning to the Cosmopolitan in November 2017. TMZ is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

In recent court filings, Simpson's attorney, Malcolm LaVergne, raised the specter of racial bias by hotel officials.

Simpson, 72, lives at a Las Vegas golf community after serving nine years in state prison for leading five men, including two with guns, in a bid to retrieve items that he said belonged to him from two memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room. He was released from prison in October 2017 and his parole runs until 2022.

His civil lawsuit acknowledges he received a notice prohibiting him from returning to The Cosmopolitan after he and two friends visited a restaurant and a lounge. He says he doesn't know why, and denies he was “belligerent toward staff (or) patrons,” broke glass or damaged property.

Simpson was acquitted in Los Angeles in the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman. A California civil court jury found him liable for the killings in 1997 and ordered him to pay $33.5 million to victims' families.