‘Juice’ will be loose

O.J. Simpson granted parole in Las Vegas hotel room heist

AP PHOTO
Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson appears via video for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday.

AP PHOTO Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson appears via video for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday.

LOVELOCK, Nev. — O.J. Simpson was granted parole Thursday after more than eight years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel-room heist, successfully making his case for freedom in a nationally televised hearing that reflected America’s enduring fascination with the former football star.

Simpson, 70, could be released as early as Oct. 1. By then, he will have served the minimum of his nine-to-33-year sentence for a bungled attempt to snatch sports memorabilia he claimed had been stolen from him.

During the more than hourlong hearing on live TV, Simpson was, by turns, remorseful, jovial and defensive, heatedly insisting the items taken in the armed robbery were “my stuff.”

At one point, the murder defendant in the 1995 “Trial of the Century” set off a storm of sarcasm and incredulity on social media when he said, “I’ve basically spent a conflict-free life, you know.”

All four parole commissioners who conducted the hearing voted for his release after a half-hour of deliberations. They cited, among other things, the low risk he might commit another crime, his community support and his release plans, which include moving to Florida.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Simpson said quietly as he buried his head on his chest with relief. As he rose from his seat to return to his prison cell, he exhaled deeply.

Then, as he was led down a hall, the Hall of Fame athlete raised his hands over his head in a victory gesture and said: “Oh, God, oh!”

Simpson was widely expected to win parole, given similar cases and his good behavior behind bars. His defenders have argued, too, that his sentence was out of proportion to the crime and that he was being punished for the two murders he was acquitted of in Los Angeles in 1995, the stabbings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Inmate No. 1027820 made his plea for freedom in a stark hearing room at the Lovelock Correctional Center in rural Nevada as the parole commissioners questioned him via video from Carson City, a two-hour drive away.

Gray-haired but looking trimmer than he has in recent years, Simpson walked stiffly into the hearing room in jeans, a light-blue prison-issue shirt and sneakers. He chuckled at one point as the parole board chairwoman mistakenly gave his age as 90.

Simpson insisted he never meant to hurt anyone, never pointed a gun and didn’t make any threats during the holdup of two sports memorabilia dealers.

“I thought I was glad to get my stuff back, but it just wasn’t worth it,” he told the board. “It wasn’t worth it, and I’m sorry.”

Even one of the dealers Simpson robbed, Bruce Fromong, testified on his behalf, telling the parole board that Simpson deserved to be released so he could be with his family.

“He is a good man. He made a mistake,” Fromong said, adding the two remain friends.

Arnelle Simpson, at 48 the eldest of Simpson’s four children, told the board, “We recognize that he is not the perfect man.” But she said he has been “a perfect inmate, following all the rules and making the best of the situation.”

“We just want him to come home, we really do,” she said.

The commissioners said the murder case played no role in their decision, though a majority of letter writers opposed to Simpson’s release asked the board to take it into account.