O.J. Simpson was granted parole following a hearing in front of the Nevada Board of Parole Thursday. The former football star has served nine years of a nine-to-33-year sentence for his role in a 2007 confrontation over sports memorabilia at a Las Vegas hotel. Simpson could be released from prison as soon as October 1st.
Simpson was found guilty of 12 charges in the Las Vegas incident, including armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping. The former football star and five others were convicted of storming into the room of two memorabilia dealers and leaving with hundreds of items. Simpson claimed he only wanted to retrieve items from his own career, including ceremonial football and photos of his family.
During his parole hearing, Simpson rehashed his side of the story, claiming again that he only intended to retrieve the items he believed were his personal property. He also reiterated that during the confrontation he never brandished a weapon, nor instructed anyone to do so. He noted, “I basically have spent a conflict-free life.”
Still, Simpson took responsibility for his role in the confrontation, saying, “I’ve spent nine years making no excuses about anything. I am sorry that things turned out the way they did. 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!”
Simpson also spoke about his incarceration, specifically the anti-violence courses he completed. He called the program, Alternative to Violence, “the most important course anybody in this prison can take” and noted the various times he used his training to mediate conflicts between other inmates and quell potentially violent outbursts.
Simpson’s infamous reputation, however, did come up during the hearing. At one point, a parole board member noted that members of the public are encouraged to send in letters regarding potential parolees and that hundreds had arrived both in support of and in opposition to Simpson. The parole board member said that the letters in opposition to Simpson’s release referred overwhelmingly to his 1995 murder acquittal and were not taken into consideration. Still, Simpson was asked how he was prepared to handle interactions with people outside of prison considering his fame and notoriety.
“I’ve been recognized ever since i was 19 years old,” he said. “This is not new to me. Rarely have I even been, has anyone given me negative stuff in the street. I’m pretty easily approachable … I don’t foresee any problems dealing with the public at all.”
During the hearing, Simpson’s daughter, Arnelle Simpson, delivered an emotional message on her father’s behalf. “We recognize that he is not the perfect man, but he has done his best to behave in a way that speaks to his overall nature and character, which is always to be positive no matter what,” she said.
“This has been really, truly hard and there’s no right or wrong way to explain how to handle this,” she continued. “But we do know that, I know that, he is remorseful, he truly is remorseful, and we just want him to come home so that we can move forward for us. Quietly. But to move forward.”
In his final statement before the parole board, Simpson apologized again for his involvement in the robbery, saying, “I’m sorry it happened, I’m sorry to Nevada … I thought I was glad to get my stuff back, but it wasn’t worth it. Nine years away from your family is just not worth it.”