Who Is Kato Kaelin? How the Witness in the OJ Simpson Case Shaped the Trial
During Tuesday night's broadcast of The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, a familiar voice rose up out of the Twitter ether to weigh in on the true crime drama unfolding on FX. Or, unfamiliar to millennial viewers; Everyone who was an adolescent or older in 1994 and 1995 will likely remember Kato Kaelin, a friend of O.J. Simpson who testified at his trial for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman.
In the made-for-TV retelling of the trial of the century, Kaelin is played by Billy Magnussen, whose wig was among the many elements of the series with which the real life Kaelin took issue. As he tweeted during the premiere, "many things you'll see in this series...never happened."
And he would know. Brian "Kato" Kaelin was staying in Simpson's guest house the night Simpson's ex-wife was murdered and was called as a witness for the prosecution during the trial. In the course of his multi-day testimony, he helped the prosecution to nail down a timeline for the night's events.
Kaelin told the court that he and the defendant went for hamburgers on the night in question, but parted ways after the outing, sometime around 9:40. Kaelin went to the guesthouse and Simpson went to his room to pack for a trip to Chicago. Shortly thereafter, around 10:40, he heard and felt thumping forceful enough that he mistook it for an earthquake.
He told the court that the thuds prompted him to go out and investigate. He found a limo in the driveway outside the house, waiting to take Simpson to the airport. Kaelin was helping to pack the car when he noticed a bag on the lawn. He made to grab it, he said, but Simpson stopped him.
That detail, Kaelin insisted in a critique of American Crime Story for the New York Daily News, was important: "That bag, to this day, has never been found," he wrote. Which apparently aroused Kaelin's suspicions.
In a Nov. 2015 interview with Barbara Walters on ABC's 20/20, Kaelin said that he thought his friend was guilty of the murder. Coming back into the spotlight after two decades, Kaelin is largely unchanged. His testimony at the trial placed him under the spotlight, but the 15 minutes wasn't enough to launch him from struggling actor-slash-waiter to real celebrity.
According to Details, he took a few reality television spots and a few other minor roles. He has a line of lounge clothes (Kato's Kouch Potatoes) geared toward couch potatoes — the clothes have particular pockets for a remote control and chip bags — which jells nicely with this new career as a TV critic. Kaelin ended his episode 1 review on the somewhat ominous note of, "I'll be watching."
And live tweeting, we can only hope.