The Nevada Board of Parole is going decide today whether O.J. Simpson gets released from prison, after serving more than eight years for his role in taking sports memorabilia from two men in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2007.
Simpson, a NFL running back during the 1970s who was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1995, was found guilty in 2008 of 12 criminal counts, including assault, burglary, coercion, kidnapping and robbery, all with use of a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to serve between nine and 33 years at the Lovelock Correctional Center, a medium-security prison, about 90 miles northeast of Reno.
At 70, Simpson is once again in the national spotlight. He is set to appear from prison via video conference Thursday at 1 p.m. E.T., before four members of the seven-person parole board. They are expected to release a decision shortly after.
The parole board has created a new website to accommodate “overwhelming media and public interest.” The hearing is going to broadcast live on several networks, including ESPN, which won its first Academy Award for the documentary series, O.J.: Made in America. Simpson was also the subject of FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson, which won an Emmy as part of the American Crime Story anthology series.
With the hearing today, here is everything you need to know about Simpson’s life in prison and his chance at scoring parole.
Parole board members previously granted Simpson parole
In July 2013, the same four board members – Connie Bisbee, Tony Corda, Adam Endel and Susan Jackson – were part of the team that paroled Simpson on one burglary count and two counts of both kidnapping and robbery in connection to the 2007 crime. At that time, the parole board said that Simpson had a “positive institutional record,” according to The Associated Press. Simpson also apologized to the two sports collectibles dealers who were robbed at gunpoint.
The board took about two weeks to deliver the decision. Board members are now expected to weigh the remaining counts and issue an immediate decision after the hearing, an accelerated process that members contribute to distractions caused by the media.
If granted parole, Simpson could be released as soon as October 1st. If denied, another hearing would be set within one and three years. His current release date is set for September 2022.
A robbery victim plans to attend parole hearing
About 15 people are expected to attend the hearing, including Bruce Fromong, one of the memorabilia dealers who was robbed. Fromong claims he suffered four heart attacks and financial loss since the crime, but he says that he will be “trying to be good for O.J,” according to The Associated Press. The other dealer, Alfred Beardsley, died two years ago.
Simpson’s sister Shirley Baker and his daughter Arnelle Simpson are also attending. Andy Caldwell, a retired Las Vegas police detective on the Simpson case who is now a Christian minister in Oregon, said he is “just curious to see how everything unfolds.”
The hearing is open to the public, but the only people allowed to speak are victims and their family members and Simpson and his lawyers, according to ESPN. The board’s decision is largely based on a points system that considers criminal history, age, gender, history of alcohol and drug use, and behavior.
Earlier this year, in a report from CNN, Nevada defense attorney Dan Hill said that Simpson’s history of being granted parole and his current age could work in his favor. “So does the fact that he was by all accounts a model prisoner, as does any acceptance of responsibility for his actions,” he said. Retired Clark County district attorney, David Roger, who convinced a Las Vegas jury to send Simpson to prison, said he does not “think it will be out of line for him to get parole,” according to The Associated Press.
Simpson has a clean prison record
When sentenced, Simpson told officials he would be “the best prisoner [they’d] ever have,” according to Sports Illustrated.
Simpson’s lawyer Malcolm LaVergne, his friend Tom Scotto and prison guards now claim he has kept his word and has a clean disciplinary record. “He’s been a positive force in there,” said Scotto, whose wedding Simpson planned to attend in Las Vegas the weekend of the robbery, according to The Associated Press. “He’s done a lot of good for a lot of people.”
As Scotto told it, Simpson is a model inmate: An athlete who returned to his sports background, serving as commissioner for the prison softball league, coaching teams and playing fantasy football. He watches football in his cell on his 13-inch flat screen, but did not watch the documentary or television series about his own life. He mentors other inmates and even leads a Baptist prayer group.
Simpson received special treatment in prison, guards teased him
In a report from CNN, former guards Jesse Mandoki and Jeffrey Felix said they have mocked Simpson about the murder trial in 1995. Felix recalls dropping a glove on the ground in front of Simpson and joking about it not fitting him, referring to the theatrical moment in trial when Simpson struggled to put on blood-stained gloves found at the crime scene.
Scotto said that guards nicknamed O.J. “Nordberg”, after his character in the The Naked Gun movies. Mandoki and Felix said that others called him “Bobble Head”. When asked why, Felix offered, “Man, he’s got a really big head.”
Aside from the jabs, Simpson appears to have minimal problems with guards and inmates, while enjoying extra perks.
A cellmate, Greg Lewis, told CNN that Simpson shared space with “bigger dudes that could take care of business if anybody hassled him.” And when it was time for chow, Simpson “cuts in front of every line,” Felix said. When he bought food, inmates would carry his bags for him. He initially gained weight eating chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon rolls, but has slimmed down in recent years. Felix, who often walked with Simpson in the prison yard, has since retired from his guard post and told CNN he plans on publishing a book about their time together, aptly titled Guarding the Juice.
One of Simpson’s Dream Teamers offered advice before the 2008 trial
According to Town & Country, Simpson’s old lawyer F. Lee Bailey said he is the “last one standing” of Simpson’s attorneys to still claim his client’s innocence, after helping him beat the murder raps. Standing by Simpson, he told him to fire his lawyer during the most recent trial. (Bailey could only provide informal advice, since he was disbarred in the early 2000s). Simpson ignored the advice and was sentenced to over three decades.
The pair have not spoken since the conviction. Bailey says that Simpson was told by prison officials to keep clear of him to do well in the parole hearing. “I’m convinced the guy got screwed,” Bailey says.