CARSON CITY, Nev.—O.J. Simpson was granted parole on Thursday and will be released in October following an emotional hour-long hearing that centered on a botched armed robbery in a Las Vegas hotel room that sent him to prison for nine years.
A four member Nevada parole board voted to release 70-year-old former star athlete, who was acquitted in a sensational double-murder trial that gripped America two decades ago.
Simpson participated by live video feed from Lovelock Correctional Center, about 100 miles from the parole board’s office in Carson City, in the hearing that included testimony from his daughter and one of the robbery victims.
He bowed his head and appeared to be in tears as the four-member board voted unanimously to grant parole. He then stood and clasped his hands as he thanked them repeatedly.
“I’ve done my time, I’ve done it as well and respectfully as anyone can,” Simpson said during his testimony. “None of this would have happened if I’d had better judgment.”
Among reasons the board gave for its decision was that Simpson had complied with prison rules during his incarceration, had no prior criminal convictions and posed a minimal safety risk to the public.
Simpson said he was ready for life outside prison, to spend time with his children and friends and could handle the public attention he would get.
“I’m not a guy that has conflicts in the street, I don’t expect to have any when I leave here” he told the parole board.
Board members heard testimony from Simpson’s adult daughter, Arnelle, and from Bruce Fromong, one of two sports memorabilia dealers he was convicted of robbing at gunpoint on September 13, 2007.
Fromong said Simpson was “a good man” who made a mistake and should now be released as he deserved “a second chance.”
The board said it had received hundreds of letters in support of, and opposing, Simpson’s parole.
The board stressed it did not take into consideration the notoriety still surrounding Simpson’s acquittal for charges he murdered his wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman and a civil court decision that found him liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages.
Simpson, whose on-field nickname was “The Juice,” was an ideal candidate for parole, based on his conduct in prison and other typical factors, according to legal experts.
Simpson won the Heisman Trophy, the award for the top college football player, in 1968 while attending the University of Southern California. He played more than a decade in the National Football League, becoming the first player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
Following his playing career, Simpson became known for his work as a pitchman in television commercials for companies like Hertz and for roles in movies like the comedy “The Naked Gun.”
O.J. Simpson (R) arrives for his parole hearing with attorney Malcolm LaVergne at Lovelock Correctional Centre in Lovelock, Nevada, U.S. July 20, 2017. (Sholeh Moll/Nevada Department of Transportation/Handout via REUTERS)
By Steve Gorman