This is the second part of our multi-part series which aims to be the most comprehensive compilation of well-sourced, credible information about O.J. Simpson and domestic violence. Part two focuses on the January 1, 1989 incident.
O.J. Simpson and Domestic Violence: A Multi-Part Investigative Series.
Part 2: The Incident On January 1, 1989
A Strange Call to 911 at 3:58 am
A call to 911 was made from O.J. Simpson’s estate located at 360 N Rockingham at 3:58am on January 1, 1989. The 911 dispatcher who answered the call, Sharon Gilbert, had no dialogue with the caller but heard a woman scream and what she believed to be an altercation occurring in the background. Although she never spoke with whomever made the call, based on what she heard occurring in the background Gilbert, rightly, dispatched officers from LAPD’s West Los Angeles station to respond to the potential incident.
The LAPD Response
LAPD Detective John Edwards (who at the time was a training officer for West LA Patrol) and his partner, Officer Patricia Milewski, arrived to 360 N Rockingham Avenue at around 4:15 AM.
Detective Edwards, testifying as a witness for the prosecution in California v. Simpson (murder trial) on January 31, 1995, shared that upon arrival at the Simpson estate he noticed the Ashford gate had “a little call box out front with a button.” Shortly after he rang the intercom, Detective Edwards testified that “a female came over the speaker, said she was the housekeeper, that her name was Michelle.” Detective Edwards told Michelle that he “was there on a 911 call, that a woman had placed a 911 call” from the house and informed her that he “needed to see and talk to the person who made that call.” Detective Edwards testified that Michelle responded “that there was no problem there.” He then told Michelle that he would not leave until he “saw the person that made the 911 call.”
Nicole Connects with the Officers
Detective Edwards testified that “then a woman came running out of the bushes to my left, across the driveway. She was a female Caucasian, blond hair. She was wearing a bra only as an upper garment [bra] and she had on dark — i believe it was a dark lightweight sweatpants or night pajama bottom.” When the woman was directly across the gate from the detective she “started yelling, “he’s going to kill me, he’s going to kill me.” then she pressed the button which allowed the gate to open and then she ran out [to the other side of the gate] again yelling “he’s going to kill me.” Detective Edwards asked the woman “‘well, who is going to kill you?’ she said, ‘O.J.’” The detective responded “‘O.J. who? Do you mean the — the football player, O.J. the football player?’ and she said, ‘yes, O.J. Simpson, the football player.’” The woman then told Detective Edwards that she was Nicole Simpson and O.J. Simpson was her husband.
As this dialogue was happening the gate which Nicole exited, which was on an automatic timer to close after a set amount of time, automatically closed.
Detective Edwards testified that he observed the following injuries on Nicole’s face: “She had a cut approximately one inch, I believe, on her left upper lip. She had a swollen right forehead and her — I believe her left eye or right eye was starting to blacken, it was swollen, and she had some sort of an imprint or some sort of a swollen mark that you could see on her cheek. I believe that was also on the right cheek. And she had a hand imprint on her throat, on the left side of her throat.”
Nicole’s Statement to LAPD
Next, Detective Edwards said that asked Nicole to tell him what had happened. He testified that Nicole said “that O.J. had slapped her, hit her with his fist and kicked her and pulled her — I think pulled her by the hair.”
Noticing that she was shivering due to the chilly weather, Detective Edwards had his partner, Officer Patricia Milewski, “put her uniform jacket on her because she was shivering so bad, and had her placed in the right rear seat of our patrol vehicle.”
Officer Milewski proceeded to enter the vehicle, sit in the right front seat and started taking the crime report from Nicole. During this time Nicole made a series of spontaneous statements to Detective Edwards and Officer Milewski. Per Detective Edwards testimony: “She said, ‘You guys never do anything’ something to the effect, that ‘You never do anything about him. You come out. You have been out here eight times. You never do anything about him.’ and she says, ‘I want him arrested. I want my kids back. I want to go in the house.’”
After completing the crime report Detective Edwards asked Nicole “if she would sign a crime report against O.J. Simpson. She said ‘Yes’ she grabbed the notebook from my partner and the pen and she signed her name on the document without even looking, and as fast as she could.”
O.J. Meets the Officers
Then, Detective Edwards observed “Mr. Simpson walking towards me from the house” “wearing an open bathrobe with a pair of shorts, underwear and no shoes.”
Detective Edwards testified that when O.J. Simpson reached the closed gate he said “‘I don’t want that woman in my bed anymore. I got two other women. I don’t want that woman in my bed anymore.’”
The Detective testified that he “told him [O.J.] that Nicole had obvious physical injuries to her face and that she said that he had hit her and I could see trauma in open wounds to her and that she wanted him arrested and I was going to have to place him under arrest for spousal battery.”
Edwards, stated that while he was not sure, he believes that O.J. responded to his statement saying “‘I didn’t hit her. I just — I just pushed her out of the bed.” Detective Edwards once again explained to O.J. that due to the injuries to Nicole’s face which he observed, he would have to place him under arrest. The detective testified that O.J. then said ‘you’ve been out here eight times before and now you’re going to arrest me for this?’ then he said, ‘This is a family matter.’”
Detective Edwards then informed O.J. that “he was going to have to get dressed and come to the station with me when my supervisor arrived.”
O.J. walked back to the house and Detective Edwards returned to his LAPD cruiser and used the radio to request that his supervisor to respond to the scene.
The Housekeeper Intervenes
As he was doing this, Detective Edwards explained that he “heard the gate open and I saw somebody come through the gate. It was a female.” The female “went directly to the right rear door of the police car.” The female “opened the right rear door and reached in and grabbed Nicole Simpson by the right arm and started pulling on her and saying something.” The detective identified the woman’s voice as being the same voice that answered the intercom – Michelle the housekeeper.
The detective testified that he “Pulled her away from the car and closed the door after I saw and heard what she was doing.” He then advised Michelle of “148 of the penal code, interfering with a police officer’s investigation” and told Michelle to leave. She complied and returned to the house.
“Approximately two minutes passed and O.J. Simpson came back out, now dressed.” He approached the closed gate and said to Detective Edwards “What makes you so special? Why are you doing this? You guys have been out here eight times before and no one has ever done anything like this before.” Detective Edwards explained to O.J. that he was “Going to have to place him under arrest and that the law required me to place him under arrest and there was no if’s, and’s or but’s about it.”
LAPD Supervisor Arrives
As Detective Edwards was saying this to O.J. the supervisor that he had requested, Sgt. Glenn Varner arrived to 360 N Rockingham. Detective Edwards then walked over to the supervisor to explain to him the details of the situation.
“As I was explaining to the supervisor what had transpired and what we needed to do, I saw a blue Bentley start up, the lights start up, turned on and it went out a driveway that I was not aware was there. It went out a driveway onto Rockingham out another gate similar to the one I had been standing in front of and the vehicle went southbound on Rockingham.”
Detective Edwards and his supervisor, Sargent Glenn Varner, pursued the Bentley but since both men were out of their squad cars when the Bentley exited 360 N Rockingham, their pursuit was unsuccessful.
Nicole Photographed, Examined by LAPD at West LA Station
While Mr. Simpson was charged with domestic abuse, he was never arrested by LAPD.
Following the unsuccessful pursuit, upon returning to Rockingham Detective Edwards testified that he “offered to drive her [Nicole] to an emergency room and get her treated right then and there.” Nicole declined, telling the Detective that “she wanted to go back to the house to her children. She wanted to be with her children.”
Understanding the importance of documenting her injuries via photograph, Detective Edwards testified that he “asked her if she would go to West LA Station and have Polaroid photographs taken of her real quickly.” Nicole said yes.
Nicole is Examined at the West LA Station
While at West LA Station, Detective Edwards had his partner, Officer Patricia Milewski, take Nicole into the women’s restroom to “see if she had any bruises or marks on her back” or elsewhere on her body. Officer Milewski found no additional bruises, marks or other injuries on Nicole’s body.
Detective John Edwards’ Curious Claim
Although it is never mentioned in the police report or any of the documents associated with the incident, Detective Edwards testified that while at the West LA Station Nicole told him that the incident occurred because Nicole was upset that “there was two other women living in the house and that O.J. Simpson had sex with one of them prior to going to bed that night with her.”
While this claim is titillating and sensational, it is rooted in truth? Considering that Nicole never mentioned it to other LAPD personnel or the prosecutors from the City Attorney’s Office, it seems highly unlikely that Detective Edwards claim is accurate.
An Important Note About Detective John Edwards:
In the wake of the Rodney King beating then-mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley formed the Christopher Commission (The commission’s namesake and chairman was Warren Christopher) to conduct ‘a full and fair examination of the structure and operation of the LAPD,’ including its recruitment and training practices, internal disciplinary system, and citizen complaint system. In its examination of excessive force in the Los Angeles Police Department, the Christopher Commission compiled a list of 44 “problem officers” – Officers with six or more complaints of excessive force or improper tactics between 1986 and 1990. Detective John P. Edwards was one of the 44 LAPD officers that the Christopher Commission identified as a “problem officer.”
Nicole Returns to Rockingham from West LA Station
After completing the photographs and examination at the West LA Station, Detective Edwards drove Nicole back to the Simpson estate at 360 N. Rockingham. Upon arrival Nicole was greeted by housekeeper Michelle Abudrahm. Despite the earlier incident when Michelle tried to drag Nicole out of the police car, Detective Edwards made no effort to speak with Michelle. In fact, although she was a witness to the incident, Michelle Abudrahm was never interviewed by LAPD.
The Case Against O.J. Moves Forward
From a legal standpoint, the most significant thing that occurred that night was Nicole signing the crime report [See the subheading above: “Nicole’s Statement to LAPD”]. Her signature on the report legally obliged LAPD to bring their domestic abuse case against O.J. to the next step in the process.
On January 3, 1989 the case was assigned to Detective Mike Farrell of the West L.A. Division’s Crimes Against Persons detail. Detective Farrell testified that when he was assigned the case his “supervisor explained to me what I should do with it and adjudicate it as soon as possible by interviewing the victim and the defendant.”
LAPD Investigation: Detective Interviews O.J. & Nicole Separately
Shortly before noon on January 3, 1989 Detective Farrell called 360 N Rockingham.
Nicole Brown Simpson answered the phone. Testifying on January 31, 1995 Detective Edwards shared the details of his conversation with Nicole: “I told Nicole that I would like to see her in person, if she can make arrangements to come to the police station. She agreed and said she would come down the next day. She would also bring her two kids with her, and she did come down and meet me.”
Following their discussion, Detective Farrell asked Nicole if he could please speak with O.J. After introducing himself to O.J., Detective Farrell asked O.J. about the incident. Detective Farrell testified that O.J. “explained to me that after he and Nicole returned home after a New Year’s Eve party, that they were ready — they were in their bedroom and a verbal dispute broke out between them and that the dispute got out of hand and it became physical. He told me that it turned into a mutual type wrestling match and that was, basically it; nothing more than that.”
Christopher Darden: Did you ask the defendant about the injuries Nicole Brown sustained?
Detective Farrell: Yeah. I asked him about the — because I had a photograph that showed injury to her forehead, and I told him that I looked at a photograph that depicted some injury to Nicole’s forehead and he [O.J.] said, ‘Well, I know. I was surprised to even see that it had occurred because of the incident.’
Darden: Did he deny causing those injuries?
Farrell: No, he did not.
Darden: Did he admit causing those injuries?
Farrell: Yes, he did.
LAPD Investigation: Detective Farrell’s Interview with Nicole at West LA Station
The following day, January 4, 1989, per Detective Farrell’s request, Nicole met with him at the West LA Station.
During direct examination by prosecutor Christopher Darden, Detective Farrell recounted his meeting with Nicole: “I explained to her what was going to happen in this case” and “explained to her the procedures that would happen. I reviewed the original police report with her and asked her to review it. We reviewed it together. I asked her, ‘Does this accurately depict what happened over the weekend?’ She said, ‘yes.’ I said, ‘Is this your signature on the report?’ She said, “Yes, it is.” Farrell informed Nicole that he would use this information to preparing the case for a prosecutor from the City Attorney’s Office.
Johnnie Cochran: Prior to Mr. Simpson entering a plea to this misdemeanor charge of 273.5 p.c., did Miss Nicole Brown Simpson indicate a desire to drop all charges against her husband and have a city attorney hearing?
Detective Farrell: Well, when I first met her on the 4th, she brought the kids with her and I discussed what happens with these type of cases, and I wanted her input about her feelings towards prosecution. At that time, she said if she could avoid it, she doesn’t want to prosecute. But I told her that no matter what she told me, even though she didn’t want to prosecute, I would have to take the case to the city attorney’s office. Then I discussed some of the options that the city attorney may do, and one of those is the city attorney hearing. And then at that time, she said, ‘well, I would like to have that. I think that would be neat.’
Cochran: Let me just back up. In your report, you spelled it out. On January 4th, ’89, you contacted miss Nicole Brown Simpson, at that time, she told you she did not want to prosecute, but would welcome a City Attorney hearing. That’s an informal hearing at the city attorney’s office, right?
Cochran: Sit around with the City Attorney and you discuss this matter, right?
Cochran: And so thereafter, you told her that the City Attorney could make their own judgment, they may want to go forward with the charges whether or not she wanted to prosecute or not. Is that what you said?
Farrell: That is correct.
Detective Farrell Presents the Case to the Prosecutors to Determine if Formal Charges will be Filed
In The Run of His Life, Jeffrey Toobin writes “under the law, Farrell had to present the case to the city attorney’s office, which would have the final say over whether Simpson would be prosecuted for misdemeanor spousal abuse. The prosecutors were torn, as they so often are in domestic-violence cases. If this really was just a single drunken brawl after a New Year’s Eve party, a prosecutor told Farrell, then maybe they should just let it drop. After all, they had a reluctant victim as their only witness. Farrell was told to ask around the West L.A. station and determine whether there had been other incidents at the Simpson home. If there was a pattern, they would prosecute.” [Pages 64-65]
After Reviewing the Case File, Prosecutors Ask Detective Farrell to Continue His Investigation
Per the request of the prosecutors, Detective Farrell asked his fellow officers at West LA Station if they had ever responded to an incident at 360 N. Rockingham or involving O.J. Simpson. The Detective asked a lot of other cops but only one told Farrell that he had responded to an incident at the Simpson estate. Detective Farrell asked this officer to please write a memo to documenting his recollection of the incident he responded to at 360 N. Rockingham.
The Officer’s Memo
On January 18, 1989 the LAPD officer who told Detective Farrell that he had responded to a previous incident between O.J. and Nicole Simpson, submitted the following memo to Farrell for the delivery to the prosecutors who were deciding whether or not to file formal charges against O.J. Simpson:
During the fall or winter of 1985 I responded to a 415 family dispute at 360 N. Rockingham.
Upon arrival I observed two persons in the front of the estate, a male Black pacing on the driveway and a female wht [White] sitting on a veh [vehicle] crying.
I inquired if the persons I observed were the residents at which time the male Black stated, “Yeah, I own this, I’m O.J. Simpson!”
My attention turned to the female who was sobbing and asked her if she was alright but before she could speak the male Black (Simpson) interrupted stating, “She’s my wife, she’s okay!”
During my conversation with the female I noted that she was sitting in front of a shattered windshield (Mercedes-Benz I believe) and I asked, “Who broke the windshield?” with the female responding, “He did (pointing to Simpson) … He hit the windshield with a baseball bat!”
Upon hearing the female’s statement Simpson exclaimed, “I broke the windshield … it’s mine … there’s no trouble here.”
I turned to the female and asked if she would like to make a report and she stated, “no.”
It seems odd to remember such an event but it is not everyday that you respond to a celebrity’s home for a family dispute. For this reason this incident was indelibly pressed in my memory.
The author of the above memo is Detective Mark Fuhrman.
In his memo Mark Fuhrman wrote that “this incident was indelibly pressed” in his memory, however there is solid evidence that the convicted perjurer’s memory is flawed in matters of the recollection of time and date.
The inaccurate details included in Fuhrman’s memo came to light in the depositions conducted prior to the start of the civil lawsuit brought against O.J. Simpson by the Goldman and Brown families. Indeed it was questions asked by Goldman family attorney Daniel Petrocelli which provided the opportunity for O.J. Simpson to prove that Fuhrman was incorrect about key details:
Daniel Petrocelli: What was the year?
O.J. Simpson: I don’t know, but I know if wasn’t 1985.
Petrocelli: How do you know that?
Simpson: Because they said it was in the fall and I recall it being in the fall because Nicole was pregnant in the fall of 1985, was the first year we were married. We never had any arguments that year. After she had the baby, she had a C section, so she wouldn’t have been out, couldn’t get her for the next two years to go out having drinks with friends, and this incident had taken place after she had returned home from having drinks with friends. So certainly–and Nicole– certainly was not the fall of 1985.
Petrocelli: Well, based on what you just said can you fix the time for us?
Simpson: I believe it was 1984.
Petrocelli: In the fall?
The Significance of Mark Fuhrman’s Memo
In The Run of His Life, Jeffrey Toobin insinuates that without Mark Fuhrman’s letter recounting his experience responding to an incident at the Simpson estate in 1985, it is probable that prosecutors would have declined to file charges against O.J. Simpson: “Farrell passed it to the prosecutors, and on January 30 they decided to bring a case against O.J. Simpson.” [Pg 66]
Witnesses Not Interviewed
LAPD never interviewed housekeeper Michelle Abudrahm about the incident between O.J. and Nicole that she witnessed. LAPD never entered the house and was unaware that there was an additional witness inside the house, a nanny.
Statements Not Verified
Detective John Edwards also testified that he made no effort to verify the statement about LAPD responding to eight previous incidents at 360 N. Rockingham. (This is the focus of third part of this series)
First Media Report
The first news report about the January 1, 1989 incident was on February 2, 1989 when the Los Angeles Times published this 258-word article:
O.J.’s First Initial Court Appearance
On on March 30, 1989 the Los Angeles Times reported that Simpson had plead “innocent” to the charges.
O.J. Pleads No-Contest to the Charge
O.J. Simpson’s attorney, Howard Weitzman, arranged a deal with prosecutors for Mr. Simpson to plead “no contest” to the charge in return for a sentence of probation, counseling and community service.
O.J.’s plea was covered in a 94-word article published in the May 23, 1989 edition of the Los Angeles Times:
O.J. is Sentenced
On May 24, 1989, O.J. Simpson received a suspended sentence, twenty-four months of probation, and fines totaling $470. He was ordered to “perform 120 hours of community service through the Voluntary Action Bureau” and to receive counseling twice a week. As Mr. Simpson resided in New York City between the months of August through January due to his broadcasting responsibilities, Howard Weitzman and prosecutor Rob Pingel arranged for Mr. Simpson to receive his counseling from a private psychologist rather than require him to participate in the group counseling sessions prosecutors traditionally preferred. The Judge also ordered O.J. Simpson to pay $500 as “restitution,” to the Sojourn Counseling Center, a battered women’s shelter in Santa Monica, California.
The Times reported the details of O.J.’s sentence in the paper’s May 24th edition:
From his first conversation with LAPD Detective Mike Farrell on January 3, 1989, O.J. Simpson took complete responsibility for the reprehensible, disgusting physical abuse he committed against Nicole on New Year’s Day 1989.
O.J. Simpson fulfilled all of the terms imposed on him by the criminal justice system to the satisfaction of Judge Ronald Schoenberg. In addition to the requirements imposed on him, O.J. Simpson took significant personal and legally-binding actions in the wake of his behavior on New Year’s Day 1989. We will explore this in-depth in the fourth part of this series.
This is the second part of a multi-part series investigating O.J. Simpson’s History of Domestic Violence. Part three of this series will examine the claim that prior to the New Year’s Day 1989 incident, LAPD had responded to eight other domestic incidents between O.J. and Nicole Simpson.