CARSON CITY, Nev. (CN) – O. J. Simpson, former football star turned convicted robber, is set to be released from a medium-security prison outside Lovelock, Nevada, as early as Oct. 1 after his good behavior while confined as “offender 1027820” helped secure his parole Thursday.
A Nevada parole board panel consisting of four of the board’s seven members unanimously granted Simpson’s parole after a hearing that lasted about an hour and 15 minutes. Board members deliberated in private for about 30 minutes before voting in open session.
Board member Tony Corda told Simpson he deserved to go to prison for a 2007 robbery at a Las Vegas hotel room. But he said Simpson complied with all the prison rules, was a low risk to commit another crime and has community support and stable plans for release.
While the panel gathered at the board’s office in Nevada’s capital, Simpson, 70, participated in the hearing via a video link from the Lovelock Correctional Center, about 90 miles northeast of Reno.
The Lovelock prison has been Simpson’s home since December 2008 after a judge sentenced the Heisman trophy winner, Pro Football Hall of Fame member and one-time actor and rental-car TV pitchman to a minimum of nine years and a maximum of 33 years in prison for his role in the armed robbery and assault of two sports-memorabilia collectors.
Simpson and five other men confronted the collectors, Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley, at a Las Vegas hotel room in September 2007. Simpson said he was trying to recover items belonging to him.
A jury convicted Simpson of 12 counts, including armed robbery, kidnapping and assault.
Simpson told the board he was sorry, that he didn’t intend to commit a crime, that he wants to spend time with his children and that he’s served his time “as well and respectfully as I can.”
Oct. 1 is the first day Simpson is eligible to be freed on parole, and officials said he has plans to move to Florida to be with family. Officials still have to approve the specifics of his release.
In 2013, the board paroled Simpson on his first series of sentences that added up to a five-year minimum term. The remaining sentences, the subject of Thursday’s parole decision, required Simpson to serve a minimum of four years.
“I have spent nine years making no excuses,” Simpson told the board while seated next to his attorney Malcolm LaVergne.
“I’ve done my time. I’d just like to get back to my family and friends. Believe it or not I do have some real friends,” he said.
“I’m sorry it happened; I’m sorry to Nevada.”
In response to a board member’s question why it would be better to be in the community rather than prison, Simpson mentioned his four children and added: “I have always been a giving guy. My reputation has always been that I am open to the public. I am open to anybody.”
He said he’s respected the jury’s verdict and has apologized to the victims. But he insisted he didn’t mean any harm to them and never saw anyone brandish a gun during the robbery. He said he only went to the hotel room to retrieve his own property, including pictures of his family.
Asked how he will deal with the public if he’s released, Simpson said he didn’t foresee any problems.
“I’ve been recognized since I was 19 years old. I’ve dealt with it my whole life.”
He said he’s not a guy who has conflicts on the street, and “I don’t expect to have conflicts when I leave here.”
Fromong addressed the board from the prison, saying he was speaking as a victim and as a longtime friend of Simpson.
He said Simpson never held a gun on him.
“I don’t feel he’s a threat to anyone out there,” Fromong said. “He’s a good man.”
The board also heard from Arnelle Simpson, the oldest of Simpson’s four children, who also was at the prison. She said Simpson is “like my best friend and my rock.”
“My dad recognizes he took the wrong approach and could have handled the situation differently,” she said.
“We just want him to come home,” she said, adding that she knows he’s been humbled and that he’s remorseful.
Simpson’s conviction in the Las Vegas case came on the same day, Oct. 3, that a jury 13 years earlier acquitted him in the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, who were fatally stabbed outside her Los Angeles home.
The killings, Simpson’s arrest and his televised trial arguably make up the most sensational crime drama in American history, complete with a slow-speed police pursuit of a white Bronco carrying Simpson and a pair of gloves believed to have been worn by the killer that appeared to be too small when Simpson put them on during the trial. That courtroom glove scene led to one of his attorneys, Johnnie Cochran, telling the jury: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
A jury in a civil trial later found Simpson liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million to the victims’ estates.
Parole decisions in Nevada must be approved by a majority of the seven-member parole board. For Thursday’s hearing, members in Las Vegas were on standby to vote in case the four-member panel could not reach a unanimous decision.