O.J. Simpson on Thursday was granted parole after serving nine years of his 33-year prison sentence for armed robbery and assault in Las Vegas a decade ago.
The decision was made after the disgraced football star expressed regret for his actions, which he said occurred after having a few drinks and misjudging the situation.
"I haven’t made any excuses in the nine years that I’ve been here, and I’m not trying to make an excuse now," he said.
In 2007, Simpson and several friends, including Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, burst into a Las Vegas hotel room armed with guns and stole about $100,000 worth of Simpson's sports memorabilia from collectors Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong, who had been expecting to meet a wealthy buyer.
Simpson argued that the memorabilia and personal family photos were taken from him, and that he was merely trying to get the items back. He also claimed he didn't know that his associates, who were acting as security guards, had guns with them.
Simpson, now 70, was convicted in 2008 of robbery and assault charges — exactly 13 years after a jury found him not guilty of killing ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.
Stewart was also convicted for his role, but was released more than a year later after the Nevada Supreme Court overturned his conviction, finding that he had been denied a fair trial by being tried alongside the much more famous — and controversial — Simpson.
Speaking to parole board members on Thursday, Simpson maintained that he had no idea two men he was with were armed, and had only been there to retrieve property that authorities later determined belonged to him.
"You know? It's — it was my property," he told board members. "I wasn't there to steal from anybody. And I would never, ever pull a weapon, ever pull a weapon on anybody."
The decision to grant Simpson parole was expected given that there was little, if any, opposition to it. Beardsley died in 2015, and Fromong has said that, while he suffered several heart attacks and significant financial losses after the robbery, he has forgiven Simpson.
He even advocated for Simpson's release on Thursday, telling the board that nine years in prison was too long for someone who didn't personally take part in the violence.
"This is a good man," he said. "He made a mistake."
Simpson was also accompanied at the hearing by his attorney, Malcolm LaVergne, his sister, Shirley Baker, and his daughter, Arnelle Simpson, who also addressed the board.
"The choice that he made nine years ago, that resulted in this sentencing, was clearly inappropriate and wrong and counterproductive to what he was trying to achieve," Arnelle Simpson said. But, she added, "he truly is remorseful, and we just want him to come home so that we can move forward for us."
Simpson was previously granted parole in 2013 for a series of charges related to the robbery, but had to wait another four years to become eligible for parole on the remaining convictions.
Simpson told parole board members on Thursday that he had spent his years at the Lovelock Correctional Facility in Nevada helping prisoners avoid conflict, coordinating and managing a prison-yard softball league, and taking victim empathy and anger management classes.
"I'm not a guy that has conflicts on the street," he said. "I don't expect to have any when I...when I leave here."
Simpson also said he has apologized to all the victims involved and truly regrets his actions.
In the end, all four parole board members voted to grant Simpson early release, which could happen as soon as Oct. 1.
When the final roll call was taken, Simpson dropped his head, saying, "Thank you." His daughter started crying.
But even when he gets out of prison, Simpson’s legal troubles are far from over.
He was found civilly liable in 1997 for the deaths of Brown and Goldman, and was ordered to pay their families $33.5 million. However, the attorney for the Goldman family, David Cook, told BuzzFeed News that the amount Simpson now owes has grown to more than $50 million.
“He has paid zip,” Cook said.
It is unclear if Simpson still receives a football pension that was once estimated at $19,000 a month, but even if he did, that money would be “near impossible” to reach an amount needed to satisfy the civil judgment, Cook added. Any movie or television residuals, though, “we reach that.”
Simpson's ability to earn money has been hampered by his incarceration, but he again became part of the national conversation thanks to The People v. O.J. Simpson, the FX hit that chronicled his dramatic murder trial from 1995.
What happens after prison is anyone's guess.
“We are all strangers in O.J. Simpson’s strange land," Cook said, "because at every turn it gets stranger and stranger, from the white Bronco, the LA trial, to the acquittal, to the wrongful death."
Claudia Rosenbaum is an entertainment reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Claudia Rosenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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