O.J. Simpson granted parole after nearly nine years in prison

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By: CBS News
July 20, 2017

Photo: Nevada Dept. of Corrections

O.J. Simpson, former football star and convicted felon, is appearing before a parole board from Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada today at 1 p.m. ET.

Simpson was convicted in 2008 of an armed robbery involving two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room. The 70-year-old will ask four parole board members to release him in October after serving the minimum nine years of a 33-year sentence.

The Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners will hear arguments before deliberating off-camera. Experts say it's likely Simpson will win release.

Simpson's celebrity spanned sports, movies, television and advertising before his fall from grace during his highly publicized murder trial in 1995. Simpson was found not guilty in the killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. In 1997, he was found liable in civil court for their deaths and ordered to pay $33.5 million to survivors including his children and the Goldman family.

Live updates of Simpson's parole hearing follow below. Updates are from both Erin Donaghue from CBS News and the Associated Press:

3:34 p.m.

O.J. Simpson's sister began weeping as the third of four parole commissioners voted to release the former football star October.

Shirley Baker then began hugging Simpson's daughter, Arnelle, who had been holding a hand over her mouth Thursday in the parole hearing room at a Nevada prison.

A corrections officer led Simpson away. As they walked alone down a hallway, Simpson raised his hands over his head in a gesture of victory and said, "Oh God, oh!"

He has served nearly nine years for armed robbery and assault with a weapon when he tried to take back sports memorabilia in a hotel room in Las Vegas.

3:25 p.m.

O.J. Simpson's attorney says prison officials should strip the pension benefits from a former guard who wrote a book about his experiences behind bars with the former football star.

Malcolm LaVergne says Jeffrey Felix's book, "Guarding the Juice," included false information. LaVergne says Simpson was a model inmate who had positive interactions with corrections department officials.

The attorney spoke to reporters outside a Nevada prison Thursday after Simpson was granted parole for armed robbery and assault with a weapon.

3:20 p.m.

O.J. Simpson's lawyer says his client has taken plenty of responsibility for the armed robbery that sent him to prison for nearly nine years.

Malcolm LaVergne was defensive as he spoke to reporters outside a Nevada prison Thursday after Simpson was granted parole. He dismissed a reporter's question about whether Simpson has fully acknowledged his role in the confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers in a hotel room.

Simpson told the parole board that he's sorry "that things turned out the way they did" and had no intent to commit a crime. At one point, he also said he had basically lived a "conflict-free life."

3:10 p.m.

A Nevada parole board allowing O.J. Simpson to go free in October has cited his compliance with prison rules, his lack of prior convictions, his low risk of committing another crime, his community support and stable release plans.

The four commissioners decided Thursday that the 70-year-old former football, TV and movie star can be paroled after serving his minimum nine-year term for armed robbery and assault with a weapon. He tried to take back sports memorabilia in a hotel room in Las Vegas.

The chairwoman of the board says it didn't look favorably on parole violators. The commissioners will release a final order with the conditions of Simpson's release.

Parole granted
2:52 p.m. [ET]
All four commissioners have agreed to grant parole.

Simpson was emotional as the commissioners read their decision.

"Thank you," he said as some in the hearing room clapped.

The earliest Simpson could be released from prison is Oct. 1.

Deliberations begin
2:17 p.m. [ET]
Commissioners have begun their deliberations.

Victim supports release
2:10 p.m. [ET]
Bruce Fromong, 63, a victim in the case, spoke out in support of Simpson's release.

He said he had known Simpson for years. He said another man held a gun on him, not Simpson.

Fromong said Simpson had offered him his apology, and he has forgiven him. He called Simpson a "good man who made a mistake."

"If he called me tomorrow and said, 'Bruce, I'm getting out, will you pick me up?'

He turned to Simpson and said, "Juice, I'll be there for you tomorrow."

Simpson appeared to cry and wiped his eyes.

"I'm sorry"
2: 08 p.m. [ET]
When asked whether he had closing statements, Simpson said, "I am sorry things turned out the way they did."

He said when he began his prison term, he told the warden he would be no problem.

"I think I've kept my word," Simpson said. "As I said I've done my time. I'd like to get back to my family and friends."

Simpson's lawyer speaks

2:02 p.m. [ET] Simpson's lawyer Malcolm La Vergne read a letter Simpson had penned to Nevada representative Ozzie Fumo, advocating for prison education funding.

He said Simpson used his clout to help fellow inmates, rather than petition to be released from jail.

"Some of these men are going to go out and have a decent and better life for themselves as a result of Mr. Simpson's efforts," La Vergne said. "I think that's the definition of character."

"We just want him to come home"

1:47 p.m. [ET] Simpson's daughter Arnelle Simpson, 48, speaks in support of her father's release.

"I'm a little nervous so bear with me," she said. "As you know I'm here on behalf of my family for expressing what we believe is the true character of my father."

She paused, choking back tears and shaking her head.

"No one really knows what we've been through, this ordeal over the past nine years. My experience is that he's like my best friend and my rock."

She said Simpson has been a "perfect inmate" and "followed all the rules."

"As a family we recognize he is not the perfect man ...he has done the best to behave in a way that speaks to his overall nature and character which is always to be positive no matter what," she said.

She said her father "took the wrong approach and he could have handled the situation differently," but is remorseful.

"We just want him to come home," she said.

"I've done my time"

1:38 p.m. [ET] A commissioner asks Simpson why it would be better to be in the community than in prison.

"I do have four kids," Simpson said. "I've missed a lot of time with those kids. I think I'm a guy that's always been a giving guy."

He said he was "not looking to be involved with the media" should he be released.

"I've done my time, I've done it as well and respectfully as I think anybody can," Simpson said. "I believe in the jury system. I've honored their verdict. I've not complained for nine years."

Simpson said he understands "beyond a doubt" any release would be subject to terms and conditions.

"I have no problem, none whatsoever with living with those conditions," he said.

"I take full responsibility"

1:31 p.m. [ET] Simpson describes taking prison courses that he felt helped him, but said he did not enter AA because "I've never had an alcohol problem."

When a commissioner said alcohol was a factor in his offense, he said he was drinking because he had been at a wedding celebration that day.

He said he felt the prison courses have prepared him to re-enter the community. He said despite problems with "fidelity," "I've always been a guy that pretty much got along with anybody."

He apologized for his actions.

"I wish this would have never happened, I apologized to him at my sentencing...if I would have made a better judgment back then, none of this would have happened. I take full responsibility."

A commissioner said the board has received hundreds of letters both in favor and in opposition to his release. The majority of the opposition letters, she said, related to Simpson's 1995 murder acquittal -- she said that case would not be considered by the board.

Impact on victims

1:20 p.m. [ET] A commissioner asks Simpson what he felt was the impact of his crime on the victims.

"Bruce was traumatized by it," Simpson said.

Simpson said he knew the victim and his family.

"This family know I wouldn't wish any harm on these guys, and I'd like to think we're friends again," Simpson said.

"It was my property"

1:11 p.m. [ET] A commissioner Simpson of his crime, "What were you thinking?"

"Well this might be a little long, I'll try to be brief.

He said he was contacted my a man who told him "some guys were trying to fence my property."

"I kind of blew him off because I'm really not interested in football property."

But Simpson said he asked him to get a picture of what the men had. "What I saw was my family, mother's albums, pictures of my kids growing up," Simpson said.

"I told him I would really like to get this stuff....after a period of time what he described in court as perfect storm we all ended up in Las Vegas," Simpson said.

He said he knew the people were were supposedly with the property.

The man said he would bring the property to his hotel and told Simpson to meet him there. "He also said you should bring security. I said I know these guys, I don't think I need security," Simpson said.

Simpson said he went to the hotel with "two guys" who met him in the lobby, which he described as a "big mistake."

Simpson said he "wasn't there to steal this stuff."

"I am no danger to pull a gun on anybody," Simpson said.

Simpson insisted the property belonged to him. "It was my property I wasn't there to steal from anybody."

"You look great for 90"

1:09 p.m. [ET] Brisbee says she has Simpson listed as 90 years old, to which Simpson and the crowd laugh. Brisbee quickly corrects herself that Simpson is 70 and jokes, "You look great for 90."

Commissioners arrive

1:06 p.m. Board member Connie Brisbee tells Simpson he will receive the same hearing as other inmates, but because of the "crowd of people" -- Simpson laughs -- who don't normally attend the hearings, Brisbee said she will explain the proceedings at length.

Simpson says he was over the age of 24 at his first arrest. He says he has never been on parole before.

1:03 p.m. [ET] O.J. Simpson arrives and begins to answer questions.

12:58 p.m. [ET] Four parole board commissioners have taken their seats.

Simpson to appear via video conference

12:39 p.m. [ET] Simpson will appear Thursday by video conference from the Lovelock Correctional Center. He will be quizzed by four state parole commissioners in Carson City, a two-hour drive from where he is incarcerated.

Two other members of the board will monitor the hearing, said David Smith, a parole hearing examiner.

The commissioners will have a parole hearing report that has not been made public, plus guidelines and worksheets that would appear to favor Simpson. It plans to make its written risk assessment public after a decision.

Simpson is expected to make a statement and answer questions.

"I think he needs to express both remorse and that he's not a danger to the community," Loyola Marymount Law Professor Laurie Levenson said on CBSN.

They will consider his age, whether his conviction was for a violent crime (it was), his prior criminal history (he had none) and his plans after release, Smith said.

Nevada has about 13,500 prison inmates, and the governor-appointed Board of Parole Commissioners has averaged about 8,300 annual hearings for the past four years. The rate of inmates who are granted parole in discretionary hearings held as they approach their minimum sentence, like Simpson's, averages about 82 percent.

The same four board members also have experience with Simpson, having granted him parole in July 2013 on some charges - kidnapping, robbery and burglary - stemming from the 2007 armed confrontation. The board's decision left Simpson with four years to serve before reaching his minimum time behind bars.

Board members Connie Bisbee, Tony Corda, Adam Endel and Susan Jackson noted at the time that Simpson had a "positive institutional record," with no disciplinary actions behind bars.

The parole board is expected to take the unusual step of deliberating and issuing a decision the same day of the hearing.

Key players

12:23 p.m. [ET] About 15 people, including Simpson, are expected to be in the room for the parole hearing.

They include his attorney, Malcolm LaVergne of Las Vegas; daughter, Arnelle Simpson, 48, of Fresno, California; sister, Shirley Baker, of Sacramento, California; and friend, Tom Scotto, 55, of Naples, Florida.

A victim in the case, sports collectibles dealer Bruce Fromong, 63, of North Las Vegas, Nevada, planned to attend. The other memorabilia seller, Alfred Beardsley, died in November 2015.

Fromong has said he and Simpson have made amends and that he intends to speak in favor of Simpson's parole.

Simpson's lawyer arrives

12:19 p.m. [ET] O.J. Simpson's attorney, Malcolm LaVergne, has visited the hearing room and asked Warden Renee Baker who will sit where. Baker said Simpson will sit at the center table with LaVergne to his left.

Simpson's prisons caseworker, Marc La Fleur, will sit at a separate table to LaVergne's left. Baker said she may also sit at that table with La Fleur.

Simpson's supporters will sit on three blue plastic chairs along the wall to his right.

Baker told LaVergne that the plan is to have speakers during the hearing take LaVergne's seat next to Simpson.

La Fleur declined to comment ahead of the hearing.

Hearing set to begin

Lovelock Correctional Center Warden Renee Baker said Wednesday she couldn't say how Simpson's parole hearing might turn out.

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