O.J. Simpson has been granted parole after serving nearly nine years of a 33 year sentence for armed robbery at a Las Vegas hotel. A panel comprising four members of the Nevada parole commission unanimously gave him a thumbs up. He’s to be released in October.
“Mr. Simpson, you organized this crime. Two victims were robbed at gunpoint. It was a serious crime and there was no excuse for it. You deserved to be sent to prison,” the board told him after deliberating for about 15 minutes following the 75-minute-ish hearing, after which Simpson and his lawyer were heard laughing and joking on hot mics.
Noting he has now served the “minimum amount required by the court,” Simpson, now 70, was told he was being granted parole because he is considered “low risk” by the board’s guidelines, has community support and a stable release plan.
The public outrage likely to follow today’s headline-making news will have nothing to do with what happened in that Vegas hotel room, where Simpson insisted he was merely retrieving sports memorabilia that had been stolen from him. His stiff nine-to-33-year sentence for that crime was filed under Cosmic Justice in the wake of Simpson’s acquittal in the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. The country had been transfixed by the racially divisive trial that followed.
“The question here is whether or not you have served enough time in prison in this case,” the board said, before revealing its 4-0 decision. TV pundits had downgraded Simpson’s odds to 50-50 while the panel deliberated. This, after hearing his remarks during the hearing, in which he oozed self pity and self-justification, while never fully acknowledge responsibility for the crime. He also acknowledged he had not complete a program for substance abuse, as he had indicated he would do at his previous parole hearing in 2013, insisting he did not have a drinking problem.
Simpson did himself no favors at today’s widely covered parole hearing, when the panel asked him to explain why he was in jail. During his long-ish explanation of the events leading up to and during the robbery attempt, Simpson continued to insist he had ordered no weapons be used by members of his posse, and repeated his long-since refuted claim was not aware a gun was pulled by one of them until he was leaving the scene, because the gun-wielding “security guard” had been standing behind him.
“Nobody ever accused me of puling any weapon on them,” Simpson told board members, unironically. “I would never ever pull a weapon on anybody.”
Most galling, however, may have been Simpson’s assertion he has led a conflict-free life.
“He is entitled to say he did not kill Nicole and Ron; he was acquitted of both crimes,” CNN’s chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin conceded. “But he was convicted of domestic abuse, and Nicole had called 911 repeatedly. And for him, this wife-beater, to way he led a conflict-free life indicates how he views domestic violence as something that’s not really a crime; just sort of a ‘personal matter’,” Toobin argued, calling it “appalling but indicative of the character that O.J. has displayed, in private, most of his life.”
TV news legal pundits, including Toobin, kept reminding viewers in the walk-up to today’s decision that Simpson is in jail for his stab at robbery, not the 1994 fatal stabbings. An estimated 100 million people watched or listened to the 1995 verdict. Exactly 13 years to the date after his acquittal on charges he slaughtered Nicole and Goldman, the former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL star was found guilty of the robbery at a hotel in Las Vegas, at which a member of the Simpson posse pulled a gun.