Former NFL star O.J. Simpson has been granted parole. A gray-haired O.J. pleaded with a Nevada parole board Thursday to set him free after more than eight years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel room heist, insisting — as he has all along — that he was only trying to retrieve mementos stolen from him and never meant to hurt anyone.
The former football star, looking trimmer than he has in recent years, walked briskly into the hearing room dressed in jeans, a light-blue prison-issue shirt and sneakers. He laughed at one point as the parole board chairwoman mistakenly gave his age as 90.
Simpson, 70, said he never pointed a gun at anyone nor made any threats during the crime that put him in prison, and he forcefully insisted that nearly all the memorabilia he saw in two dealers’ hotel room belonged to him.
“In no way, shape or form did I wish them any harm,” he added, saying he later made amends with those in the room.
He said he has spent his time in prison mentoring fellow inmates, often keeping others out of trouble, and believes he has become a better person during his time behind bars. He said he took an alternative-to-violence course in prison.
‘I’ve done my time,” he said. “I’ve done it as well and respectfully as I think anybody can.”
A vote in his favor would enable Simpson to get out as early as Oct. 1. By then, he will have served the minimum of his nine-to-33-year armed-robbery sentence.
The Hall of Fame athlete’s chances of winning release were considered good, given similar cases and Simpson’s model behavior behind bars.
His defenders have argued, too, that his sentence was out of proportion to the crime and that he was being punished for the two murders he was acquitted of during his 1995 “Trial of the Century” in Los Angeles, the stabbings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Reflecting America’s enduring fascination with Simpson, several major TV networks and cable channels — including ABC, NBC, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and ESPN — carried the proceedings live, just as some of them did two decades ago during the Ford Bronco chase that ended in Simpson’s arrest, and again when the jury in the murder case came back with its verdict.
Simpson said most of the objects taken in the hotel heist were personal property, including letters from celebrities, family photos, certificates of accomplishment and more. Items that were not his, including autographed baseballs, were taken by others in the rush to get out of the room, he said.
He added he realizes he made a terrible mistake bringing along two people with guns, adding if he had gone to the room by himself he could have resolved the matter without a problem.
Simpson said if released he plans to return to Florida, where he was living before his incarceration.
“I could easily stay in Nevada, but I don’t think you guys want me here,” he joked at one point.
“No comment, sir,” one of the parole board members said. Read further.