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In a small room in Carson City, Nev., a four-member panel unanimously decided inmate 1027820 deserved a second chance.
Orenthal James Simpson, 70, will walk out of the medium-security Lovelock Correctional Facility on Oct. 1 – more than 20 years after his acquittal in the grisly 1994 slayings of his ex-wife and her friend.
The man known as The Juice and O.J. appeared via videotape before the state’s parole board Thursday to plead his case for freedom after nine long years in prison.
His parole was granted.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Simpson mouthed to the panel.
Dressed in prison dungarees, the star of the Naked Gun movies appeared noticeably trimmer than he has been in the recent past, although he walked with a slight limp.
But Simpson’s sense of being the big dog on campus hasn’t been dimmed by nearly a decade in the slammer.
Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in prison in 2008 for a botched 2007 robbery when he tried to retrieve personal mementoes from a Las Vegas hotel room.
The panel said they had received hundreds of letters in support of – and against – his release.
The Heisman Trophy winner said he had no excuses for his actions.
“I’ve spent nine years making no excuses about anything … I’m sorry. I had no intent to commit a crime,” Simpson said. “I told the warden when I got here, ‘I will be no problem’ and I think I’ve kept my word.”
Simpson, warming to his former football star self, added: “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.”
Speaking on behalf of Simpson, his eldest daughter Arnelle quivered and fought back tears, telling the panel her father was her “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.”
Vegas memorabilia dealer Bruce Fromong – who was the victim of the heist – said he and Simpson have been friends for 27 years. At the 2008 trial, Fromong suggested The Juice serve one to three years.
“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 …,” Fromong said, adding another man drew the gun.
“We all make mistakes, O.J. made his. I’m here to say that I don’t feel that he’s a threat to anyone out there. He’s a good man; it’s time for him to move home to his family and friends.”
He added: “Juice, I’ll be here tomorrow for you. I mean that buddy.”
Simpson clearly touched, nodded his head as tears welled in his eyes.
The panel heard how Simpson had taken courses on alternatives to violence, was commissioner of the 18-team prison softball league and had become a better Christian.
In addition, he contacted a Nevada politician who was an old friend about getting more educational materials for the cons.
Commissioner Susan Jackson alluded to the 1995 double-murder trial where Simpson was charged with butchering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.
He was acquitted but the stench has hung over his life ever since. Jackson said Simpson’s infamy would not be taken into account.
Defence lawyer Monte MacGregor told the Toronto Sun that given Simpson’s age and his lack of a prior conviction, the decision wasn’t really a shock.
“But I’m still a little surprised; he served less than one-third of his sentence,” MacGregor said. “Mostly, it was his age. He’s 70. And he apparently has a good release plan.”
However, MacGregor cautioned: “They will be watching him for the rest of his life.”
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