O.J. Simpson could be a free man as early as October.
The notorious football star — born Orenthal James Simpson — has a July 20 parole hearing that could result in his release from a Nevada prison as early as Oct. 1, according to state parole officials.
Simpson, 69, was found guilty in 2008 of armed robbery, kidnapping and other charges stemming from a confrontation with sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas casino hotel room. The altercation occurred in September 2007. Simpson has already served eight years of his 9- to 33-year sentence.
What was he sentenced for?
Simpson was convicted in 2008 of kidnapping and armed robbery along with 10 other charges. Prosecutors said the Hall of Famer, along with five other men, stormed into a hotel room and took memorabilia such as game balls, photos and plaques.
Four co-defendants pleaded guilty before the trial to felony charges and testified for the prosecution. Two told jurors they brought and displayed guns, although Simpson insisted he never knew anyone was armed.
Simpson’s defense argued that the incident was not an actual robbery but an attempt by Simpson to retrieve his own items that had been previously stolen.
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But prosecutors said Simpson still took the items from the hotel room by force.
“When they went into that room and forced the victims to the far side of the room, pulling out guns and yelling, ‘Don’t let anybody out of here,’ six very large people detaining these two victims in the room with the intent to take property through force or violence from them, that’s kidnapping,” prosecutor David Roger said at the time.
At the time of the trial, the Associated Press reported that Simpson expected the outcome of the trial. In an interview before his sentencing, Simpson said he was “afraid that I won’t get to go to my kids’ college graduations after I managed to get them through college.”
What about his ex-wife’s murder?
Simpson was acquitted in the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, exactly 13 years prior to the 2008 verdict.
In what was one of the most watched and controversial cases on race and domestic abuse, Simpson stood trial in 1995 after his ex-wife and her friend were found stabbed to death outside of her condominium — with her two children asleep inside the home.
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Simpson’s journey to court wasn’t easy. After refusing to turn himself into police, Simpson led law enforcement officials on a now-infamous car chase throughout Los Angeles. Video of his white Bronco escaping police on Los Angeles’ freeways was broadcast worldwide.
The chase eventually ended when Simpson surrendered.
On Oct., 3, 1995, a jury found Simpson not guilty of the murders after only three hours of deliberations, The New York Times reported at the time.
The jury was comprised of 10 women and 2 men. Nine of the jurors were black, two were white and one was Hispanic.
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Simpson and his ex-wife had divorced in 1992 after nine years of marriage, according to The New York Times. Simpson was fined $700 and ordered to perform community service in 1989 after he pleaded no contest to charges that he beat Nicole Brown Simpson, The New York Times reported at the time of her death.
In 1997, a jury awarded Goldman’s family an $8.5 million judgment against Simpson for the young man’s wrongful death.
What should we expect about the parole hearing?
Simpson is due to appear by videoconference from Lovelock Correctional Center before a panel of four parole commissioners sitting in Carson City on July 20, a parole official confirmed to Fox News.
Simpson’s attorney in Las Vegas, Malcolm LaVergne, said he will be with his client at the medium-security prison in a small town 90 miles northeast of Reno.
“If he’s able to get parole, my prediction is he’s going to want to live a quiet life,” LaVergne told The Associated Press.
Jeffrey Felix, a retired Lovelock prison guard who had contact with Simpson for multiple years, said Simpson is “sweating it out” about the upcoming hearing.
“He’s been told there will be media tents outside, pool reporters in his room and the Carson City hearing room, and cameras sending a live feed to the media outside,” Felix told the New York Post. “He is asking why they are fostering a circuslike environment for his hearing.”
“O.J. thinks he deserves his parole – he’s been clean for nine years, hasn’t had any write-ups, took all the programs and classes they told him to take – but he thinks all this media hype is going to screw with the parole board and put pressure on them to keep him locked up,” Felix continued.
Felix, who self-published the book “Guarding the Juice” about his experience with Simpson, blamed the media for portraying Simpson negatively due to the murders of Brown and Goldman.
The parole board is expected to announce its decision on the same day as the hearing, according to the New York Post.
According to court documents and prison records, Simpson has a mandatory parole review scheduled for March 2022 should he not be granted parole in July.
Simpson has appeared before the parole board previously. In July 2013, he told commissioners he regretted the encounter with the collectibles dealers in Las Vegas and said he had apologized to them.
He said he kept a promise to prison officials to set an example for other inmates, whom he said he mentored and counseled when they came to him with issues.
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The board noted Simpson had no disciplinary actions during his incarceration and was deemed a low risk for repeat offenses. It granted Simpson parole on some convictions, leaving him with at least four more years before his minimum nine-year sentence was reached.
The hearing will be broadcast live on ESPN.
Who was O.J. Simpson before the trial?
Simpson gained celebrity status as a professional football player, spending most of his NFL career with the Buffalo Bills. He was dubbed the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year in 1973.
Simpson also won the Heisman Trophy as a senior at the University of Southern California.
Simpson dabbled in acting and hosted an episode of “Saturday Night Live.” He starred in movies such as “The Naked Gun” series, “Frogmen,” “Cocaine and Blue Eyes” and “Capricorn One,” according to his IMDB page.
He was a commentator for Monday Night Football, as well.
How has the former football great handled prison?
Lovelock Correctional Center — nearly two hours northeast of Reno, Nevada — is one of the better prisons in Nevada, according to a 2016 Los Angeles Times report.
Simpson is just like any other inmate; he shares a bunk with a cellmate, wakes up early for breakfast, works in the prison gym and coaches prison sports leagues, the Los Angeles Times reported.
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If he’s able to get parole, my prediction is he’s going to want to live a quiet life.
“He’s popular especially with the sports crowd — guys go up to him and ask him what he thinks about current sports teams,” Jon Hawkins, a former Lovelock inmate who was released on parole this year, told the Los Angeles Times. “O.J. is just a regular dude. He does his job, and he goes to his cell.”
But the former celebrity initially had a difficult time becoming accustomed to life in jail. He was sullen and stayed to himself, according to Norman Pardo, Simpson’s former manager who used to visit.
But the Los Angeles Times reported that Simpson overcame the issues he had at first with other inmates and has evolved into a much better inmate — which could bode well for his parole hearing.
“I would say 99.9 percent of inmates like him, they look up to him,” Felix told the Los Angeles Times.
How has O.J. Simpson appeared in popular culture?
Simpson’s life and struggle with the law has captured the nation’s attention ever since video of his white Ford Bronco leading police throughout Los Angeles was broadcast on news networks.
And two recent documentaries about Simpson’s life have racked up attention — and awards.
“O.J.: Made in America” won the Academy Award for best documentary in February 2017. The documentary was made for ESPN Films and was directed by Ezra Edelman.
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