Coming soon: O.J., out of jail
The next film you see of O.J. Simpson is likely to be footage of him leaving prison.
Fascination with the disgraced Pro Football Hall of Famer remains strong, as evidenced by a documentary about him winning an Oscar on Sunday. That is not to be confused with the television miniseries that dominated the Emmys last fall.
Twenty-some years after the so-called “Trial of the Century,” Simpson remains everywhere and nowhere, a powerful persona with no physical presence. But that is about to change: Sometime this year, Simpson is likely to become a free man for the first time in nearly a decade.
“I’ve known people that have served time with him, and he has a good reputation for getting along and doing what’s right,” said Gregory Knapp, a former prosecutor in Las Vegas who is now a criminal defense attorney.
“I can’t imagine any possibility of him being denied parole.”
Simpson is not serving time for the murders of his former wife and her friend; he was acquitted of criminal charges in 1995 but later was found liable for their deaths in civil court. Instead, it was an armed confrontation with memorabilia collectors in 2007 that landed him in a medium-security prison in a remote corner of northwestern Nevada.
Sentenced to from nine to 33 years for armed robbery and kidnapping, Simpson was granted parole three years ago on five of the charges. The remainder, which include enhancements for use of weapons, meant he was not to be eligible for release until this year, with a parole hearing being held as early as July.
But that decision in his previous parole hearing gives a good indication of why Simpson is likely to be freed in October.
The Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners uses an 11-item checklist to assess an inmate’s risk, assigning points based on each answer. An inmate who was employed full time for more than a year at the time of their arrest gets zero points, for example, while someone who was unemployed gets two. Being under 21 is worth two points while those 41 or older — Simpson will be 70 on July 9 — can subtract a point. The fewer points an inmate amasses, the less risk he or she is. Simpson totaled three points on his last assessment, putting him in the lowrisk category, and that’s not likely to have changed.
The commissioners will ask about Simpson’s job at the prison — he works in the gym, cleaning equipment and supervising other inmates — and how well he has adapted. Three years ago, Simpson described himself as a model prisoner, someone who tried to help others stay out of trouble.
“Because, I guess, my age, guys come to me,” Simpson said during the July 2013 hearing. “I’m sure the powers here know that I advise a lot of guys. And I like to feel that I’ve kept a lot of trouble from happening since I’ve been here by getting involved in some conflicts that some of the individuals here have had.”
Mostly, though, Knapp said, the parole board will want to see remorse, an indication that Simpson will not be a threat to his vic- tims or anyone else if he’s released. That Simpson has already expressed that — “I am sorry for what has happened. … I just wish I’d have never gone to that room,” he said three years ago — makes the decision this time around that much easier.
Simpson needs at least four of the seven commissioners to vote for parole in order to be freed. Nevada’s grant rate is about 52%.
“Without a criminal history, as long as he’s been behaving himself, I think he’s going to do really well,” Knapp said. And then what? Though he still owes $33.5 million to the families of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, Simpson can continue to shield many of his assets. His NFL pension, estimated by Sports Illus-
trated to be worth as much as $25,000 a month, is protected by law from creditors.
Simpson is free to live where he wants — provided his postprison plans are approved by Nevada’s Division of Parole and Probation and the state where he wants to move. He had moved to Florida before he was imprisoned because laws there prevented his house from being seized.
Regardless of when he is released or where he goes, one thing is certain: It will all play out in front of the cameras. Where O.J. Simpson is concerned, the chase never ends.
Convicted in 2008, O.J. Simpson could be released from prison this year.