In a shocking move just days before the O.J. Simpson murder trial began, prosecutors secretly offered defense attorneys a plea bargain deal that would let O.J. off the hook for first-degree murder. An exclusive investigation by The National ENQUIRER discovered that in an informal telephone conversation, O.J.'s lawyers told prosecutors they might agree to a guilty plea if the star would serve no more than four years in prison. But the District Attorney's office demanded he serve at least 13 years.
"The discussion really amounted to each side feeling out what type of compromise the other side might be willing to make," said an insider. "But it was still shocking, because it was the first time that a plea bargain was even hinted at in an official capacity "
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In late September, prosecutors initiated the discussion in a phone call. The defense team indicated that the only deal they might be willing to accept is one that put O.J. behind bars for only four years. They might be willing to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in this scenario. Voluntary manslaughter is defined in California as death caused "upon sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion." But prosecutors rejected that notion outright, said the insider.
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"They knew there would be grave political consequences. And in playing this 'what if’ game, they indicated they'd never accept any deal that resulted in less than 13 years in prison. "They'd be willing to accept a guilty plea to second-degree murder charges, but nothing else."
Both sides left the door open to further plea-bargain discussions later on. The District Attorney's office might agree to a plea bargain to counter the risk O.J. could be acquitted in a jury trial, say sources. That would be a political nightmare for prosecutors, coming in the wake of the D.A.'s failure to win a conviction in the much-publicized Menendez brothers case.
"Prosecutors know that O.J. has a lot going for him. He's very popular and there's no eyewitness to the murders," the insider declared. But defense attorneys won't seriously consider a plea bargain offer until after the judge rules on whether DNA evidence will be admitted at the trial, said the insider.
"If the DNA evidence is not admitted, there's no way the defense will consider making a deal." Defense lawyers are worried that DNA tests may show that blood found in OJ.'s car or house belonged to the victims. If that's the case, "there's no question OJ.'s attorneys will be more willing to deal," said the insider.
A source close to the case disclosed: "Of course, O.J. has the final say, and he could nix the whole thing. He might decide he'd rather take his chances in front of a jury of 12 people."
A plea bargain discussion is not unusual in a case like Simpson's, Paul F. Rothstein, professor of law at prestigious Georgetown University Law Center, told The ENQUIRER. And an agreement to enter into a plea bargain doesn't necessarily mean the defendant is guilty or innocent, he said. "The important thing is the strength of the evidence and what each side feels is the risk of going to jury. "Both sides in this case face very severe risks. There's a strong circumstantial case which threatens O.J. And there's always the risk to the prosecution that a juror will not be able to accept that a celebrity of Mr. Simpson's stature could have committed the crime."
When contacted by The ENQUIRER, Los Angeles District Attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons had no comment about a plea bargain discussion. Repeated calls to the office of O.J.'s attorney Robert Shapiro were not returned. The insider added: "Even though the plea bargain conversation did not lead to a deal, both sides are keeping open the possibility that they may make a deal later."