By: Joe Strupp
It all appears to be starting up again for Linda Deutsch, the veteran Associated Press reporter whose coverage of celebrity trials has made her the queen of Hollywood crime case coverage.
But it was O.J. Simpson’s 1995 double-murder trial that made her a legend, and also solidified her place as Simpson’s top journalistic confidant. By both Simpson’s and Deutsch’s own accounts, she is the only reporter to whom he regularly speaks.
So when his current legal troubles in Las Vegas unfolded, resulting in Simpson’s arrest Sunday on numerous felony counts related to an alleged hotel burglary, Deutsch’s connections paid off.
She also interviewed the memorabilia dealer in the case, Alfred Beardsley, and tells E&P that last night he told her he was sorry O.J. was arrested.
Since Thursday, she has spoken to the former football star and murder suspect four times by phone, using his private cell number that she has had for years. “He talked to me Friday and Saturday,” Deutsch told E&P Monday. “He’s always been available to me and he basically told me he was glad I was here so he could get his side out.”
Deutsch has been covering the Phil Spector murder trial in Los Angeles and was at a court house awaiting a verdict Friday when much of the Simpson story broke. “He was pretty cheerful actually,” Deutsch said of Simpson. “He said his spirits were up.” That, of course, was before his Sunday arrest.
“He didn’t talk to anybody else, I think he felt by talking to me he would get his side out,” Deutsch said, noting that some other news outlets got passing comments in the hotel lobby or by the pool, but no direct interviews. “And he knew I would just write what he said.”
Deutsch’s relationship with Simpson dates back to her coverage of the 1995 trial, in which Simpson has said she offered the fairest coverage.
“It was so fair, I went out of my way to contact her and tell her. … She is the only reporter who has my number,” Simpson told E&P earlier this year. “Linda is really the only person in the media I would talk to because she doesn’t change my words, and will put it in context.”
But with the renewed interest in a Simpson criminal charge comes renewed interest in Deutsch’s take on it. After offering some television interviews last week, Deutsch says she is being sought again, noting two early morning interview requests today she turned down from CNN and the ‘Today’ show.
“I understand the interest and I did a lot of TV the first day, but that is all I have to say,” she said Monday, as Court TV called on another line seeking some time. “I can’t do it, I am not the star.”
Deutsch was briefly part of the story several days ago when Alfred Beardsley, one of the sports memorabilia collectors whose 911 call prompted police, claimed Deutsch had used comments he made that should have been kept off the record. In an earlier story, Deutsch had quoted him as saying he was sorry O.J. was involved.
She said Monday those comments were on the record and she believed he has gotten over the dispute since he spoke to her again on Sunday.
“He never said he was off the record, I don?t talk to people off the record,” Deutsch said. “Everyone has been upset with this and I can understand being upset about being quoted. He kept saying ‘this is off the record’ and ‘this is on the record’ and I made clear what was on the record. I talked to him again last night and explained to him what I understood to be on the record and he said it again — that he was upset that O.J. was arrested.”
If another Simpson criminal trial arises, would she welcome the opportunity to cover it? “It is always interesting. I’ve been in touch with the man for 13 years; I want to see how it comes out,” she says. “But I have no vested interest. If it is a story, I will cover it.”
Deutsch, who had planned to take her first vacation in more than a year when the Spector trial ends, said the new interest in Simpson is unusual, but not surprising: “I am astounded that it would be this hot, but anything to do with O.J. is always news. It will continue to be news.”