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O.J. Simpson owes IRS up to $700,000 in back taxes

OJ Simpson photo June 27, 1997
Web posted at: 9:51 p.m. EDT (0151 GMT)

Latest developments:

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- O.J. Simpson owes the Internal Revenue Service between $600,000 and $700,000 in back taxes and faces the likelihood of having to rent rather than buy his next home.

Simpson admitted he owed the government money while talking with reporters Friday before a "debtor's examination" in the wrongful-death civil lawsuit against him.

"I'm sure I owe them money" Simpson said as he arrived at the back entrance of the courthouse. He was carrying "The Partner," a novel by attorney John Grisham. But he added, "I don't think I broke the law ... you can owe money without breaking the law.

"We've been working with the [IRS] since I've been arrested," he said. "I don't think I broke the law in any way."

Simpson also said he was looking for a new house in Los Angeles and would probably rent, because he could not afford to buy a home. His Brentwood estate is to be auctioned July 14 with a minimum bid of $2.5 million, to help pay off creditors.

"I can't buy," Simpson said. "It'll be tough to buy."

Simpson was acquitted of the June 12, 1994, murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, by a criminal court jury in October 1995. But he was found liable for their deaths by a civil court jury this year, and ordered to pay the Goldmans and Nicole Simpson's estate $33.5 million in damages.

Hearing focuses on Heisman Trophy

The victims' families are asking a court to determine the value of Simpson's assets, so they can collect on the award.

The hearing is taking place behind closed doors, although the media has had little trouble getting details. When and if an impasse is reached, the legal proceeding will move into open court where the judge will resolve the issues.

Attorney Ron Slates, who is representing Simpson, said Friday that the IRS is seeking between $600,000 and $700,000 in 1994-95 income taxes from Simpson.

Goldman

This is not the first time Simpson has had trouble with the IRS. CNN previously reported that the IRS filed two tax liens against him in May 1996 for $685,248. Those liens were removed in September 1996, after Simpson apparently paid what he owed.

Much of Friday's hearing was devoted to the whereabouts of Simpson's 1968 Heisman Trophy, which mysteriously disappeared a few months ago then suddenly showed up at a lawyer's office on July 18.

The trophy, which could fetch about $400,000 at auction, was given to Simpson in 1968 for his performance as the nation's best college football player.

Simpson calls his finances 'way too depressing'

Simpson said he learned only recently that his business associate Mike Gilbert had the trophy. Asked why he hadn't noticed the Heisman was missing from a glass trophy case at his home, Simpson said, "I have pictures and things at my house that I don't go around and look at every day. I mean, it's like wallpaper in the house."

Simpson has not been able to resume his career as a TV pitchman or sports announcer since the trial, and said Friday his financial situation has been "depressing" since his release from jail in 1995.

"I'm totally out of the financial aspect of my life ... it is way too depressing. It affected me and how I deal with my kids," he said. Simpson said his business manager, Leroy 'Skip' Taft, now handles his financial affairs.

No one has taken more delight in Simpson's discomfort than Fred Goldman, Ron Goldman's father.

Goldman relishes Simpson's troubles

At the lunch break, Goldman was asked about Simpson's demeanor during Friday's questioning.

"The killer said he was feeling quite nauseous and had to leave in a hurry," Goldman said. "If anybody appears tense, it's the killer. He never looks Gary [Caris, Goldman's attorney] in the eye. He looks at the ceiling."

Goldman said it would be "terrific" if the government prosecuted Simpson for tax evasion. Asked if he wanted the Heisman Trophy as part of a settlement with Simpson, he replied, "Like I said yesterday, I'd like to take a sledgehammer and turn it into a pancake."

Correspondent Jennifer Auther and Reuters contributed to this report.

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