By David Montero and Matt Pearce
Los Angeles Times
CARSON CITY, Nev. – O.J. Simpson was granted parole Thursday by the state of Nevada for convictions connected to a robbery in a Las Vegas about a decade ago. He could be out of jail as early as October.
The ruling came after a hearing in which Simpson testified that he longed to be reunited with his family and children and said that he has no interest in returning to the media spotlight.
During the hearing, he was assured by one of his victims that he already has a ride waiting for him when he gets out.
“I feel that it’s time to give him a second chance; it’s time for him to go home to his family, his friends,” Bruce Frumong, a sports memorabilia dealer and a friend of Simpson’s, told the Nevada Board of Parole on Thursday, which will determine whether Simpson stays behind bars.
Frumong was threatened and robbed by Simpson and some of his associates in a Las Vegas hotel in 2007, and his testimony had led to Simpson’s imprisonment. But, Frumong told the board, “If he called me tomorrow and said, ‘Bruce I’m getting out, would you pick me up?'”
Frumong paused, and he turned to Simpson and addressed the former USC star by his nickname. “Juice, I’d be here tomorrow. I mean that, buddy.”
The state board went into recess late Thursday morning after hearing more than an hour of testimony from Simpson, his oldest daughter, Arnelle Simpson, and Frumong, who each asked for Simpson’s release. The panel returned about a half our later and unanimously voted to grant parole.
Arnelle Simpson became emotional shortly after beginning her testimony for her father’s release, sometimes stopping to shake her head.
“No one really knows how much we have been through, this ordeal the last nine years,” Arnelle Simpson said. She stopped and exhaled deeply, excusing herself before putting her fist up to her mouth to steady herself. “My experience with him _ is that he’s like my best friend, my rock.”
She added: “As a family, we recognize he is not a perfect man … But he has done his best.”
Simpson looked upbeat during his first public appearance in years, smiling and nodding to Nevada Board of Parole commissioners through a video link Thursday morning.
But while the parole hearing was specific to the 2008 robbery conviction in Las Vegas, many of his answers to the four commissioners brought back memories of his acquittal of the 1995 double-murder of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.
“I’m in no danger to pull a gun on anybody. I’ve never been accused of it,” he said. “Nobody has ever accused me of pulling any weapon on them.”
Goldman and Brown were killed by a knife.
Simpson, who turned 70 this month, only barely resembles the athletic younger man who was tried and acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife and her friend in 1994.
Simpson, wearing standard-issue blue jeans, blue button-down shirt and a white T-shirt, now has close-cropped gray hair, and he looked slightly stiff as he sat down at a plain wooden table inside a prison five miles outside the town of Lovelock, Nev., where he has served nine years in prison for a robbery and kidnapping conviction in 2008.
Through a slight delay, Simpson blinked rapidly and blew out a deep breath at one point as he listened to state parole chairwoman Connie Bisbee read off the list of charges that landed him a sentence of nine to 33 years in prison.
“Mr. Simpson, you are getting the same hearing everyone else gets,” Bisbee said, then acknowledging the media firestorm that Simpson’s hearing has generated _ one of the few news events to edge President Donald Trump off the national news broadcasts. “Thank you, ma’am,” Simpson replied, laughing.
This was Simpson’s second parole hearing before the board. His last one in 2013 resulted in parole for one of the charges stemming from the robbery and kidnapping conviction in 2008.
The commissioners asked Simpson a series of questions about how he had conducted himself in prison, what he thought his life would be like outside of prison and whether he felt humbled by his convictions.
Simpson said on several occasions he was “a good guy” and indicated he mostly wanted to spend time with his family _ bemoaning missed graduations and birthdays _ and that the state of Nevada might be glad to be rid of him.
“No comment,” one of the commissioners said to some laughter.
He expressed regret for being involved with the crime, but drew some push-back from commissioners who took issue with his version of events where he said he didn’t know a gun had been brandished in the hotel room during the robbery.
But Simpson held to his version, repeatedly apologizing and expressing regret that he left the wedding in Las Vegas to go recover memorabilia he said was his.
“I am sorry things turned out the way they did,” Simpson said. “I had no intent to commit a crime.”
Because it’s Simpson, there was high interest. On Wednesday night, media satellite trucks were already camped in the dusty parking lot facing the fences and guard towers of the prison, about five miles from the tiny town of Lovelock. In Carson City, where the parole board met 100 miles southwest, trucks were lined up in a business park.
Along with his attorney, Malcolm LaVergne of Las Vegas, Simpson’s daughter, Arnelle Simpson, 48, and his sister, Shirley Baker, were the at the Lovelock site with Simpson.
One of the victims of the robbery, Alfred Beardsley, died in November.
In his testimony, Simpson referred to the effect of the incident on Fromong. “Bruce was traumatized by it,” Simpson said, adding, “He accepted my apology.”
The same four board members who granted Simpson parole four years ago were at Thursday’s hearing: Bisbee, Tony Corda, Adam Endel and Susan Jackson.
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