After five years behind bars, O.J. Simpson has won a small victory with a Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners decision — but the former NFL star won’t likely be leaving prison anytime soon.
The board on Wednesday approved Simpson’s parole request on five concurrent sentences imposed in 2008 following his conviction for kidnapping and armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers at a Las Vegas hotel room.
But he still has more time to serve for other sentences ordered to run consecutively.
Simpson faces at least four more years — and three more parole hearings — unless Clark County District Judge Linda Marie Bell throws out his conviction and grants him a new trial.
Bell presided over a weeklong hearing in May, during which Simpson’s current lawyers Patricia Palm and Ozzie Fumo argued that his trial attorney, Yale Galanter, botched Simpson’s defence and had a conflict of interest in the case.
Bell has yet to issue a decision. If she rules in Simpson’s favour, prosecutors will have to decide wither to retry him, offer a plea deal, or set him free with credit for time served.
In Wednesday’s order granting parole, commissioners cited Simpson’s “positive institutional record” and his participation in programs addressing “behaviour that led to incarceration.”
The board also noted that Simpson had no previous criminal convictions and still has consecutive sentences to serve in the Las Vegas case.
In Los Angeles, Simpson was tried for murder and acquitted in the 1994 deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
In a statement Wednesday to The Associated Press, Goldman’s father and sister, Fred and Kim Goldman, said they respect the legal process but now feel a “sense of vulnerability.”
“This is not our personal case against Simpson but since he’s been incarcerated there has been a reprieve and calm for us,” they said. “It is unsettling for our family to know that the person we believe responsible for Ron and Nicole’s murder could soon have his freedom.”
Simpson and his legal team were pleased with the ruling.
“We expected it,” Palm told the AP shortly after the order was issued. “There is no reason not to grant him parole. I’m glad they did what they should have done.”
Palm said Simpson called from prison to let her know of the board’s decision.
“He’s very happy and grateful,” she said.
Simpson appeared before a two-member Nevada parole panel on July 25 to plead for leniency. He expressed regret for his actions and said he’s tried to be a model inmate while behind bars.
Simpson was convicted on charges including kidnapping, robbery, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to nine to 33 years for the 2007 stickup of two memorabilia dealers, Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong.
During last week’s parole hearing, a greying Simpson told Parole Commissioner Susan Jackson and hearing officer Robin Bates, a retired Nevada prison warden, that he was sorry for his actions.
“I just wish I never went to that room,” Simpson said. He added that he has made amends with Beardsley and Fromong.
He said he made a promise to the warden when he arrived at Lovelock, 128 kilometres east of Reno, that he would be the “best person” they ever had at the facility. He added, “I think for the most part I’ve kept my word on that.”
Simpson also said he’s acted as jailhouse counsellor of sorts to other inmates, some of whom are serving time for similar crimes.
But he said his deed was different.
“They were trying to steal other people’s property,” Simpson said of other prisoners. “They were trying to steal other people’s money. My crime was trying to retrieve for my family my own property.”