O.J. Simpson makes case for freedom before Nevada parole board

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 20, 2017 6:06 AM

By Steve Gorman

CARSON CITY, Nev. (Reuters) - Former U.S. football star O.J. Simpson on Thursday asked a Nevada state parole board to set him free after nine years in prison for a botched armed robbery of his own sports memorabilia in a Las Vegas hotel room.

The 70-year-old Simpson, acquitted in a sensational double-murder trial that gripped America two decades ago, appeared before the board by live video feed from Lovelock Correctional Center, about 100 miles (161 km) from the parole board's office in Carson City.

"I've done my time, I've done it as well and respectfully as anyone can," Simpson told the board members. "None of this would have happened if I'd had better judgment."

The board listened to Simpson and others for more than an hour and 15 minutes and broke to deliberate on a decision which it said would take about 30 minutes.

The board, which normally takes days to render a decision, had said it would announce its ruling on the same day in light of the high-profile nature of Simpson's case.

He was joined by supporters including his daughter, sister and one of his robbery victims.

Exactly 13 years after his 1995 acquittal for the murders, Simpson was found guilty of storming into a Las Vegas hotel room with four others to retrieve at gunpoint items that he claimed were rightfully his from two sports collectibles dealers.

The board said it had received hundreds of letters in support of, and opposing, Simpson's parole. It said those against his parole asked it to consider charges that Simpson killed his wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994 and a subsequent civil judgment against Simpson.

The board said it would not take into account his 1995 acquittal or the civil court decision that found him liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages to the victims' families, a judgment that has gone largely unpaid.

The same board delivered Simpson a favorable parole ruling in 2013 on some of the robbery-related charges, leaving him with four years to go on his minimum sentence. A similar decision this time would clear the way for Simpson to walk out of prison on Oct. 1.

Simpson, whose on-field nickname was "The Juice," should be 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."

(Reporting by Steve Gorman, additional reporting and writing by Joseph Ax in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Hay and Howard Goller)