Belfast Telegraph

O.J. Simpson granted parole

The star has spent nine years behind bars at Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada.

O.J. Simpson has been granted probation after serving the minimum of nine years of a 33-year sentence for kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

The former American football star was convicted and jailed following an armed robbery in Las Vegas in 2007, after leading a recall of personal property from two memorabilia dealers at the Palace Station hotel and casino. At least one acquaintance pulled a weapon on Simpson's longtime dealer friend Bruce Fromong during the tense stand-off and troubled athlete O.J. was accused of taking sports memorabilia at gunpoint.

Simpson was sentenced to a total of 33 years in Lovelock Correctional Center in December, 2008, with the possibility of parole after nine years.

The Nevada Supreme Court denied a request for bail during an appeal in 2009.

In 2013, the Nevada Parole Board granted Simpson parole on some convictions, but his imprisonment continued based on the weapons and assault convictions.

During Thursday's one-hour-and-15 minute parole hearing, Simpson made it clear he's "a better Christian" than he was when he was incarcerated thanks to "victim empathy" and "alternative to violence" courses he has taken behind bars, and helped inmates at Lovelock Correctional Center set up a "well-attended" Baptist service.

He told the parole board members, "I was a good guy... but I could have been a better Christian.

"I thought I was a good guy; I had some problems with fidelity."

O.J. also revealed he had been appointed the commissioner of the prison softball league during his time behind bars and was often asked to help resolve conflicts between his fellow inmates.

He was also challenged by parole board commissioner Susan Jackson for not signing up for Alcoholics Anonymous sessions behind bars, but he explained he was too busy to "sit around", adding, "My agenda was full".

Simpson also recalled the events of the hotel room incident that cost him his freedom nine years ago, insisting he had no idea the two "security" men he recruited for his showdown over his personal property were carrying guns and was not aware one of them pulled a weapon on his friend Fromong.

There were light-hearted moments during the hearing as Simpson talked about his time behind bars and parole board chairman Connie Bisbee suggested he was 90-years-old. O.J. turned 70 earlier this month (Jul17).

Meanwhile, his eldest daughter Arnelle fought emotions as she testified on behalf of her father, telling the parole board members, "He's, like, my best friend and my rock."

"I know in my heart he's very humbled... I know that he is remorseful," she added.

"This has been really, truly hard... We just want him to come home, so we can move forward, quietly."

Asked if he would have any problems with probation conditions following his release, O.J. played down concerns about his alcohol intake, insisting he had been drinking on the day of the hotel incident because he was celebrating a wedding.

He said, "I haven't had a drink in nine years and I haven't missed it... I have no problem living with those conditions."

He also joked about moving back to his adopted Florida upon his release rather than staying in Nevada, adding, "I could easily stay in Nevada, but I don't think you guys want me here."

Fromong, who initially suggested his friend should serve one to three years behind bars for his part in the 2007 robbery, also testified at the hearing and said, "O.J. is my friend and I hope he will remain my friend... He never held a gun on me. There was a coward in that room..."

He added, "We all make mistakes, O.J. made his. During the trial I recommended he serve one to three years... I'm here to say that I don't feel that 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 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 move home to his family and friends."

Collectables dealer Fromong also told the panel he would be there to pick his old friend up if he was asked to on the day he was released.

Commissioner Jackson also made it clear during the hearing that letters received from O.J. critics, who urged the panel to take into account his 1995 murder trial while making their release decision, would not be considered in the case.

As a result of the commissioners' panel's decision on Thursday, Simpson could walk free on 1 October (17). A date has not been confirmed.

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