Simp­son granted pa­role, soon to be free

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Ken Rit­ter

LOVELOCK, NEV.» O.J. Simp­son was granted pa­role Thurs­day af­ter more than eight years in prison for a Las Ve­gas ho­tel-room heist, suc­cess­fully mak­ing his case for free­dom in a na­tion­ally tele­vised hear­ing that re­flected Amer­ica’s en­dur­ing fas­ci­na­tion with the for­mer foot­ball star.

Simp­son, 70, could be re­leased as early as Oct. 1. By then, he will have served the min­i­mum of his nine- to 33year sen­tence for a bun­gled at­tempt to snatch sports mem­o­ra­bilia he claimed had been stolen from him.

Dur­ing the more than hour-long hear­ing on live TV, Simp­son was, by turns, re­morse­ful, jovial and de­fen­sive, heat­edly in­sist­ing the items taken in the armed rob­bery were “my stuff.”

At one point, the mur­der de­fen­dant in the 1995 “Trial of the Cen­tury” set off a storm of sar­casm and in­credulity on so­cial me­dia when he said, “I’ve ba­si­cally spent a con­flict-free life, you know.”

All four pa­role com­mis­sion­ers who con­ducted the hear­ing voted for his re­lease af­ter a half hour of de­lib­er­a­tions. They cited, among other things, the low risk he might com­mit an­other crime, his com­mu­nity sup­port and his re­lease plans, which in­clude mov­ing to Florida.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Simp­son said qui­etly as he buried his head on his chest with re­lief. As he rose from his seat to re­turn to his prison cell, he ex­haled deeply.

Simp­son was widely ex­pected to win pa­role, given sim­i­lar cases and his good be­hav­ior be­hind bars. His de­fend­ers have ar­gued, too, that his sen­tence was out of pro­por­tion to the crime and that he was be­ing pun­ished for the two mur­ders he was ac­quit­ted of in Los An­ge­les in 1995, the stab­bings of ex-wife Ni­cole Brown Simp­son and her friend Ron­ald Gold­man.

In­mate No. 1027820 made his plea for free­dom in a stark hear­ing room at the Lovelock Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter in ru­ral Ne­vada as the pa­role com­mis­sion­ers ques­tioned him via video from Car­son City, a twohour drive away.

Gray-haired but look­ing trim­mer than he has in re­cent years, Simp­son walked stiffly into the hear­ing room in jeans, a light-blue pris­onis­sue shirt and sneak­ers.

Simp­son in­sisted he never meant to hurt any­one, never pointed a gun and didn’t make any threats dur­ing the holdup of two sports mem­o­ra­bilia deal­ers.

“I thought I was glad to get my stuff back, but it just wasn’t worth it,” he told the board. “It wasn’t worth it, and I’m sorry.”

Even one of the deal­ers Simp­son robbed, Bruce Fromong, tes­ti­fied on his be­half, telling the pa­role board that Simp­son de­served to be re­leased so he could be with his fam­ily.

“He is a good man. He made a mis­take,” Fromong said, adding the two re­main friends.

Ar­nelle Simp­son, at 48 the el­dest of Simp­son’s four chil­dren, told the board, “We rec­og­nize that he is not the per­fect man.” But she said he has been “a per­fect in­mate, fol­low­ing all the rules and mak­ing the best of the sit­u­a­tion.”

“We just want him to come home, we re­ally do,” she said.

The com­mis­sion­ers said the mur­der case played no role in their de­ci­sion, though a ma­jor­ity of let­ter writ­ers op­posed to Simp­son’s re­lease asked the board to take it into ac­count.

Among those an­gered by Thurs­day’s de­ci­sion were Gold­man’s fa­ther, Fred, and sis­ter, Kim.

“The Gold­mans are dev­as­tated,” said fam­ily spokesman Michael Wright, adding they didn’t want to say any­thing more.

Simp­son said that he has spent his time in prison men­tor­ing fel­low in­mates, of­ten keep­ing them out of trou­ble, and that he has become a better per­son.

“I’ve done my time. I’ve done it as well and re­spect­fully as I think any­body can,” he told the board.

Asked if he was con­fi­dent he could stay out of trou­ble if re­leased, Simp­son replied that he learned a lot from an al­ter­na­tive-to-vi­o­lence course he took in prison.

Simp­son said if re­leased he plans to re­turn to Florida to be near two of his adult chil­dren.

“I could eas­ily stay in Ne­vada, but I don’t think you guys want me here,” he joked at one point.

Author­i­ties must still work out the de­tails of Simp­son’s re­lease with Florida of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing where he will live and what rules he must fol­low.

Ja­son Bean, Getty Im­ages

O.J. Simp­son, 70, is re­lieved Thurs­day af­ter learn­ing that he has been granted pa­role at the Lovelock Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter in Lovelock, Nev.

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