Why Kato Kaelin Received Death Threats After The O.J. Simpson Trial

On June 12, 1994, the young actor Brian "Kato" Kaelin was staying in a bungalow on the property of O.J. Simpson, just seven minutes away from the house of Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. That night, after Kaelin saw O.J. leaving his property in a limo, the bodies of Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman were discovered nearby by a curious dog (via Baltimore Sun). Less than a year later, Kaelin would make national headlines as a witness for the prosecutor in O.J.'s trial for their murder.

Kaelin was portrayed in the media as a ditzy actor whose testimony was impotent — "Saturday Night Live" concluded a sketch about the trial with Kato agreeing with the prosecutor that he was "useless" — but according to Kaelin, he endured worse after the trial ended, when he began receiving death threats from people angry about Simpson's "not guilty" verdict (via Daily Mail). Why did Kaelin, who described himself to the Mail as "a very small player in this whole thing," get this kind of attention?

How Kato Kaelin's testimony changed the trial

In March 1995, Kaelin described that night in June in exacting detail. He and O.J. both attended Simpson's daughter's dance recital and saw Nicole there; Kaelin said that O.J. later complained about her tight dress (via CNN). Later, Kaelin and O.J. went to McDonald's to eat and came home around 9:40 p.m. Kaelin went back to his room and was on the phone with a friend at about 10:40 when he heard three loud thumps outside of his room.

Kaelin said he did not investigate the noises because he was scared and unarmed, but later he left his room and went to the front gates, where he noticed a limo parked to take O.J. to the airport. O.J. arrived at the limo at approximately 11 (via CNN). Kaelin then helped load O.J.'s luggage except for one bag — a black backpack — that the former pro athlete would not let Kaelin touch. Kaelin said that O.J. did not appear to be injured.

Kaelin, who had previously lived as a housemate to Nicole Brown Simpson, also testified that O.J. offered his bungalow as a place to stay because he was uneasy about Kaelin living with his ex-wife. The prosecution team used this detail to paint O.J. as possessive and used Kaelin's timeline to show that O.J. had no alibi for the time in which the murders took place.

After the trial: name-calling and threats

When the trial ended with a "not guilty" verdict, Kaelin felt that the jury had made a mistake, he later told Barbara Walters (via ABC News). But regardless of his personal feelings, many blamed him for the trial's outcome, he claimed to The Daily Mail.

"I was not O.J's friend — I was Nicole's friend, but people don't realize that," Kaelin said in an interview with the British tabloid. "I knew O.J. obviously and I had moved into the guest house of his home. But everything in the media at the time always pointed to Kato, O.J.'s buddy. I couldn't get away from that and it was repeated and repeated on every soundbite and TV show."

Kaelin said this contributed to the perception that he had thrown his testimony. "If you keep hearing that then eventually people start to think, 'Oh well, if he's O.J.'s buddy he must know a lot.'"

After the trial, Kaelin began receiving death threats. "I was working on a radio show and they had to hire a security team to walk me to my car at night because of it," he said. He's also received frightening letters and has had strangers pick fights with him in the street, he claimed, adding that the "trial ruined [his] life."

"Nobody knows how tough it is to be called the pool boy, Kato the freeloader, Kato this and that," he said. "I really became a pariah."