O.J. Simpson has been granted parole. Moments ago, a four-member parole board in Carson City, Nevada voted unanimously to curtail his 33-year prison sentence for kidnapping and armed robbery, stemming from a confrontation over sports memorabilia in Las Vegas in 2007.
O,J., who is now 70 years old, could be released as soon as October 1 into a world that’s still fascinated by his plummet from grace.
As the proceedings got underway around 10 a.m., Nevada time, a smiling Simpson entered the hearing room at the Lovelock Correctional Center and told the board by video link, “I always thought I’ve been pretty good with people … and have basically spent a conflict-free life.”
Simpson’s eldest daughter, Arnelle Simpson, and one of Simpson’s victims from the Vegas case testified in support of his release. “I’ve known O.J. for a long time,” said Bruce Fromong, a memorabilia dealer. “I don’t feel that he’s a threat to anyone out there. He’s a good man. . . Nine-and-a-half to 33 years is way too long. I feel that it’s time to give him a second chance.”
The networks and cable-news stations carried this latest chapter live for more than an hour, programming their day with key players from Simpson’s trial for murder in 1994 and 1995.
“The circus is back in town,” declared Mark Fuhrman, the former Los Angeles detective whose racist remarks were weaponized by Simpson’s defense, in an essay for FoxNews.com Tuesday. “O.J. Simpson is getting exactly what he loves … attention!”
He participated in Thursday’s hearing by video conference from the medium-security Lovelock Correctional Center, where he has lived there as inmate 1027820 since he was convicted and sentenced in 2008, after he and five men, some armed with handguns, confronted and detained dealers of sports memorabilia in the Palace Station hotel in Vegas. The families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman drew a direct connection between their 1994 murders and the Vegas incident.
“Allowing wealth, power and control to consume himself, he made a horrific choice on June 12, 1994, which has spiraled into where he is today,” Nicole’s sister Denise Brown said in a statement after the conviction, which came 13 years to the day Simpson was acquitted for the murders. The Goldmans had already won a $33.5-million wrongful-death lawsuit against Simpson, which they believed drove him to attempt to reclaim valuable memorabilia.
During the past nine years in Lovelock, Simpson mopped floors, disinfected gym equipment, coached inmate sports teams and led Bible study. In a sad echo of athletic competitiveness, he told the warden that he would try to be “the best prisoner they’ve ever had.” He missed his childrens’ college graduations. He missed his sister’s funeral. He was waitlisted for a prison course called “Commitment to Change.” Other younger inmates came to him for advice, Simpson claimed, and he has defused conflicts.
“I am sorry that things turned out the way they did,” Simpson said during the hearing, as the parole board weighed Simpson’s risk to the public. “I had no intent to commit a crime. . . I’ve done my time. I’d just like to get back to my family and friends … and believe it or not I do have some real friends.”
“I thought his statements were self-justifying, self-pitying, showing no remorse, no understanding, no sense of reality about his own life,” said CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin during the station’s breathless coverage. Simpson “is a deeply delusional and self-obsessed narcissist, and good luck to America once he’s out.”
Simpson was paroled on one set of charges in 2013, after apologizing to the board for the Vegas incident; the other set required an additional four-year term, at minimum, which ends this year.
Simpson, who would move to Florida, could be golfing by the autumn. Darden published a best-selling memoir last summer called “In Contempt.” Defense attorneys Johnnie Cochran and Robert Kardashian are dead. F. Lee Bailey, who famously cross-examined Fuhrman, is disbarred, mostly broke, and living upstairs from a hair salon in Maine. In September the maligned lead prosecutor Marcia Clark was at the Emmy Awards in support of “The People vs. O.J. Simpson”; her eyes welled when the actor Sarah Paulson took the stage and apologized to her on behalf of a judgmental nation.
And at the root of it all, still, is a double murder. On “Good Morning America” Thursday, the family of Ron Goldman vowed to continue going after Simpson’s assets, as a form of perpetual punishment.
“What’s troubling to me is [that] the whole system gives second chances to violent felons,” said Fred Goldman, Ron’s father. “Ron doesn’t get a second chance.”