OJ Simpson parole hearing: former NFL star granted release from prison – as it happened

11 min read

This article titled “OJ Simpson parole hearing: former NFL star granted release from prison – as it happened” was written by Bryan Armen Graham, for theguardian.com on Thursday 20th July 2017 19.23 UTC

8.23pm BST

Simpson’s attorney, Malcolm LaVergne, has ended questioning. That will end our live coverage. To summarize: A Nevada parole board has voted unanimously to allow OJ Simpson to go free as early as October, citing the former NFL star’s compliance with prison rules, his lack of prior convictions, his low risk of committing another crime, his community support and stable post-release plans. Thanks for following along with us and be sure to read Amanda Holpuch’s full report on today’s hearing below.

8.19pm BST

Simpson’s attorney said he never believed parole was a sure thing: “It was hard to know the certainty of this,” LaVergne says. “Mr Simpson is obviously a very polarizing figure. He’s very well loved, but he’s also held into contempt by a lot of people.”

8.15pm BST

LaVergne now berating a reporter who’s brought up retired correctional officer Jeffrey Felix who worked at Lovelock and talked about Simpson. The attorney says he’s started the process of getting Felix’s pension stipped. Interestingly, when Simpson was sitting in front of a hot mic in the moments before the parole board’s decision was announced, the microphone overheard him saying he might sue Felix.

8.11pm BST

It’s official: Inmate No. 1027820 at Lovelock correctional facility will be released in October. Now Simpson’s attorney Malcolm LaVergne is fielding questions from media.

LaVergne says Fremong’s testimony in favor of Simpson was very helpful in helping broker Simpson’s release. Right now Fremong is sitting with Simpson and his family inside the facility, he says. “They’re friends,” LaVergne says. “This was a big mishap.”

7.55pm BST

OJ Simpson is granted parole

Now the parole board is back in the room, saving OJ from the hot mic (and himself). Tony Corda is speaking. He says Simpson deserved to go to prison for his crime, but he’s complied with the rules of the prison, he’s a low risk to reoffend, he has community support and stable post-release plans. The question is whether he’s served enough time in prison on this case. Corda agrees he has.

Jackson and Endel also concur. And finally Bisbee votes to grant parole, completing the unanimous 4-0 decision.

“Thank you!” Simpson says as applause rings in the room.

Updated at 8.00pm BST

7.51pm BST

OJ now talking about cookies and ice cream. And now Mike Tyson. Not a joke.

7.50pm BST

OJ Simpson and his attorney Malcolm LaVergne are back in the teleconference room at Lovelock correctional center. Now Simpson is smiling and laughing with others in the room on a hot mic (!), talking about the challenges of the teleconference format.

7.34pm BST

If there was any surprise to today’s routine hearing, it was Simpson’s semi-confrontational posture to the board, specifically the self-justification of the robbery in his opening remarks. That said, every testimony was in his favor and by all accounts he’s shown himself to be rehabilitated: a model prisoner. Most seem to agree he’s served more than enough time for the crime he’s been incarcerated for. All signs indicate he will be paroled today and released on or around 1 October, but it’s not as if Simpson’s very American tale hasn’t offered up final-reel twists in the past. Stay tuned.

7.19pm BST

The parole board moves to deliberations

Bisbee calls the hearing into recess so the board can move into deliberations, which could take up to a half hour. The four-member panel must be unanimous to make a decision. If they are divided, the other two commissioners are brought in to add their feedback. From there, it’s subject to a simple majority. A 3-3 deadlock will result in another hearing in six months’ time.

Updated at 7.22pm BST

7.16pm BST

Fromong closes: “We all make mistakes. OJ made his. He’s been here and from what I’ve heard he’s been a model inmate. He’s been an example to others. During the trial I recommended he serve one to three years. That’s what I recommended to the DA. I’m here to say that I’ve known OJ for a long time. I don’t feel he’s a threat to anyone out there.

“He’s a good man. I know that he does a lot for other people and I feel that nine-and-a-half-to-33 years was way too long. And 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. This is a good man, he made a mistake.”

7.14pm BST

Now Bruce Fromong is speaking. He says first and forement he’s not only here as Simpson’s friend of almost 27 years, but he’s also appearing as a victim of a crime. He believes Simpson was misguided on the date of the crime, that he was misled about what was going to be there that day. He was promised family photos, family heirlooms, possibly his ex-wife’s engagement ring, when in reality it was mostly football memorabilia. He admits there were items in that room that were stolen from Simpson, but he insists that he never stole anything from OJ. (A point on which Simpson appears to agree.)

“I will make this clear to you: OJ never held a gun on me,” Fromong says. “There was a coward in that room, a man named McClinton, who came up gangster-style. He held the gun on me. Not OJ. Another man came in, hit me. Not OJ, he never laid a hand on me.”

Bruce Fromong
Robbery victim Bruce Fromong speaks at OJ Simpson’s parole hearing. Photograph: YouTube

7.07pm BST

Simpson’s attorney’s second point focuses on the amends that Simpson has made with Bruce Fromong, one of the two robbery victims (and the only one still living). Fromong will testify next, but Simpson will make his closing statement first.

“I am sorry the things turned out the way they did,” Simpson says in his final statement to the board. “I had no intention to commit a crime.”

6.59pm BST

LaVergne says this letter, which he claims he’s reading without Simpson’s knowledge, proves Simpson’s positive intentions and represents “the definiton of character”: that Simpson had a friend suddenly in a position of power but he refused to use it to try and get better treatment or an early release. That’s the first part of LaVergne’s closing remarks, he says.

6.57pm BST

Bisbee now tells Simpson’s attorney Malcolm LaVergne that it’s time for closing statements. He reads a letter written by Simpson to Nevada state Assemblyman Osvaldo Fumo, the full text of which appears below.

6.52pm BST

Arnelle Simpson, OJ’s oldest child, is now speaking on his behalf: “No one really knows how much we’ve been through.”

She says the family realizes he’s not perfect but has done the best he can and acknowledges he didn’t make the right decision in 2008 when he tried to take back his property.

Arnelle Simpson
Arnelle Simpson, OJ’s oldest child, is now speaking on his behalf. Photograph: Fox News

Updated at 7.01pm BST

6.49pm BST

Indeed, Endel is wearing a Kansas City Chiefs tie.

Adam Endel
Nevada parole board commissioner Adam Endel is wearing a Kansas City Chiefs tie. Photograph: NBC

6.42pm BST

Endel asks how he’d anticipate dealing with public scrutiny if released. Simpson says he’s been recognized publicly “since I was 19” and is more than used to it. He says even in the two decades since his double-murder trial, he rarely encounteres negativity on the streets and has remained as appraochable as ever.

6.41pm BST

Adam Endel, another parole commissioner, asks whether he’s completed his restitution payments to the victims. After a bit of a confusion, Simpson confirms he has. Endel then asks why parole would be better for Simpson than completing his sentence in Lovelock. Simpson says he’s been denied time with his four kids long enough: “I’ve served my time. … I’ve not complained for nine years. All I’ve done is try to be helpful.”

He says he’s received many interview requests and job offers from media and turned them all down.

Endel asks if Simpson emphasizes that any violation of his parole, if it’s granted, would result in his returning to prison: “I’ve never lived a criminal life. I’m a pretty straight shooter.”

6.37pm BST

“I haven’t made any excuses in nine years here,” Simpson says. “But I should have never let these security guys try to help when they were only trying to help themselves.”

Jackson says they’ve received hundreds of letters of support and hundreds of letters against his release. Most of the latter group, Jackson says, have begged the board to consider Simpson’s criminial trial in the 1994 murders of his ex-wife and her friend and subsequent civil judgment against Simpson. Jackson confirms what we already knew: the board will not considered either of these factors in their decision. Simpson somewhat meekly shrugs his shoulders in consent.

6.34pm BST

Simpson is asked whether these courses, including a computer course, will help his re-adjustment to the world. “I’m not a guy who has conflicts on the street,” Simpson says. “I’m a guy who’s got along with just about everybody.”

6.31pm BST

Corn asks another question: “What do you think the impact was on your victims?” Simpson says he knows what the impact was, but re-emphasizes that no one ever accused him of pulling a weapon on them.

Now Susan Jackson, another parole commissioner, asks about his commitment to Christianity and how he started a Baptist ministy in prison. He then tells Jackson about the various courses he’s complete in prison, inclduing courses in Alternative to Violence and Victim Empathy. He admits that he “had a few drinks” on the day of the robbery because they were celebrating a wedding, but he never had a substance abuse issue. Jackson says that she asks the question because he promised the parole board in 2013 that he’d attend Alcoholics Anonymous, which he hasn’t done. Simpson says he never had a problem and believed that his initiative with the Baptist prayer group and role as commissioner of an 18-team softball league compensates for the exprience he’d have had in AA.

6.22pm BST

… Simpson’s voice raises as he goes deeper into his account: “It’s been ruled legally by the state of California that the property was mine.” He finds it unfair that he’s in jall for going to retrieve property that courts ultimately found was rightfully his. He says he didn’t realize guns were brandished in the hotel room until after they were back in the car driving back to their hotel.

6.19pm BST

The former NFL star explains he was contacted by a man who offered photographs of the sports memorabilia that OJ immediately recognized as personal belongings, including his mother’s photo album and personal letters. By chance, “a perfect storm” as Simpson called it, they all ended up in Las Vegas at the same time. The people who had the memorabilia were former friends of OJ, he explains, who had actually helped him move the stuff into storage before. He continues to tell how the scheme to retrieve the property unfolded, nothing that’s not already in the public record. He emphasizes that he had no weapon. (Remember: The four other men who accompanied Simpson, including two who testified that they carried guns, accepted plea deals in the heist and received probation.)

He continues …

6.11pm BST

Simpson is asked whether the first time he was arrested was after the age of 24. He admits he was arrested for the first time “when I was 46 or 47”. We all know what that was for.

Bisbee says he’s had a substance abuse issue and that Simpson is male. Then she says that Simpson is “90 years old” and both rooms erupt in laugher. OJ, of course, is 70. She corrects her error with a smile. He has stable post-release plans and no gang affiliations.

Bisbee says these factors make Simpson a low risk, but the violent nature of the offense will force the board consider factors, both aggravating and mitigating.

6.07pm BST

“Mr Simpson, you are getting the same hearing that everybody else gets,” Bisbee says, prompting a hint of laughter from Simpson and his attorney, but adds that she will be adding more information than necessary due to the excessive amount of media interest in the case. Bisbee goes into the explaining the detailed risk assessment used by Nevada to determine the prisoner’s likelihood of committing another crime: “It’s pretty darn predictive is the bottom line here.”

6.05pm BST

Connie Bisbee, one of the four parole commissioners, starts off the hearing at 10:01am local time by calling for Simpson, who will be joined by one of his representatives. And here’s OJ, who, as previous reports have indicated, has indeed lost a considerable amount of weight. He’s wearing his blue prisoner uniform and joined by his attorney. Bisbee says his parole eligibility date is “October 1st, 2017”.

OJ Simpson
OJ Simpson sits with his attorney at his parole hearing. Photograph: Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners

Updated at 6.16pm BST

6.01pm BST

The four commissioners of the parole board have taken their seat in their Carson City office. No sign of Simpson yet from Lovelock. The hearing should be under way shortly.

5.57pm BST

The board will depend heavily on a points system that considers 11 factors, including criminal history, age and gender, history of alcohol and/or drug abuse, and behavior as an inmate. Most of these are expected to align in Simpson’s favor. Remember: the same four commissioners for todays hearing already granted Simpson parole on the lesser charges of kidnapping, robbery and burglary in a July 2013 hearing.

One factor that won’t be considered is Simpson’s trial (and ultimate acquittal) in the 1994 killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

5.36pm BST

OJ Simpson, a/k/a inmate No1027820, is scheduled to appear before the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners today for a hearing that will determine whether one of America’s most notorious prisoners will be released after serving nine years of a 33-year sentence for convictions related to a 2007 kidnapping and armed robbery at a Las Vegas hotel.

The hearing is slated to begin at 10pm local time (1pm ET/6pm BST) or just about 25 minutes from now. Here’s a general idea of what to expect:

  • Simpson, who will participate by video conference from about 100 miles away at Lovelock correctional center, will take questions from the six parole board commissioners for 30 to 45 minutes.
  • He must received a majority of votes from the six-member board in order to receive parole. A 3-3 deadlock will result in another hearing in six months’ time.
  • If paroled, Simpson will be released “on or after October 1st”, according to David Smith, a spokesman for the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners.

The release of Simpson, now 70, would no doubt kick off a renewed media frenzy that’s been suggested in the days leading up to today’s hearing, which will be broadcast live nationally on ESPN. Offshore betting websites, 5Dimes.com and Bovada.lv are both offering odds on whether the disgraced football star will be released.

Updated at 7.19pm BST

4.50pm BST

Bryan will be here shortly. In the meantime, here’s a look at what’s at stake with today’s hearing.

OJ Simpson, the former NFL star famously acquitted of murder but later jailed for a doomed bid to retrieve sports memorabilia that he said belonged to him, is expected be a free man soon.

On Thursday morning, a Nevada state parole board will hold a hearing for Simpson, 70, who is in the ninth year of a 33-year sentence for armed robbery and assault with a weapon. The disgraced gridiron hero, with the help of several other accomplices, broke into a Las Vegas hotel room on 13 September 2007 and held up two memorabilia dealers for collectibles and personal items he claimed were rightfully his. He was found guilty by a jury on all 12 charges and given the maximum sentence.

Four members from the Nevada board of parole commissioners will consider parole for Simpson at the board offices in Carson City in a hearing scheduled for 10am PT. Simpson will participate by video conference from about 100 miles away at Lovelock correctional center, the Pershing County prison where he has been incarcerated since December 2008.

The same four commissioners already granted Simpson parole on the lesser charges of kidnapping, robbery and burglary in a July 2013 hearing. That ruling left Simpson with four years remaining before reaching the minimum sentence of nine years.

The rate of inmates who are granted parole in discretionary hearings held as they approach their minimum sentence is around 82%.

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