OJ Simpson faces good chance at parole in Nevada robbery
Key events in OJ Simpson’s fall from sports hero, movie star
(AP) — O.J. Simpson’s story represents one of the most dramatic falls from grace in the history of American pop culture.
A beloved football hero in the 1960s and ‘70s, he transitioned effortlessly to movie star, sports commentator and TV pitchman in the years that followed.
He kept that role until the 1994 killings of his ex-wife and her friend. A jury acquitted him, but much of the public believes he carried out the grisly slayings.
Here’s a timeline of major events in the life of Simpson, now 70, who has been imprisoned in Nevada for armed robbery and faces a parole hearing Thursday:
1967: Simpson leads all college running backs in rushing in his first season at the University of Southern California.
1968: Simpson wins the Heisman Trophy, college football’s top honor.
1969: The first pick in the pro draft, Simpson goes to the Buffalo Bills and spends the next nine seasons with the team.
1973: He becomes the first NFL player to rush for 2,000 or more yards (2,003) in a season.
1979: Simpson retires, having rushed for 11,236 yards, second most in NFL history at the time.
1985: Simpson is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
1988: Simpson, who had been appearing in TV shows and commercials since the late 1960s, co-stars in the first of the “Naked Gun” crime comedies, perhaps his most popular role.
February 1992: Nicole Brown Simpson files for divorce after seven years of marriage. It becomes final Oct. 15.
June 12, 1994: Nicole Simpson and a friend, Ronald Goldman, are stabbed to death outside her Los Angeles home.
June 17, 1994: Ordered by prosecutors to surrender, Simpson instead flees with a friend in a white Ford Bronco. It’s a nationally televised slow-speed chase across California freeways until police persuade him to surrender.
June 1995: During Simpson’s trial, a prosecutor asks him to put on a pair of gloves believed worn by the killer. The gloves appear too small, leading defense attorney Johnnie Cochran to famously state in his closing argument: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
Oct. 3, 1995: Simpson is acquitted of murder.
February 1997: After a trial in a civil suit filed by the victims’ families, a jury finds Simpson liable for the deaths and orders he pay survivors $33.5 million.
July 2007: A federal bankruptcy judge awards the rights to a book by Simpson, in which he discusses how he could have committed the killings, to Goldman’s family as partial payment of the judgment. The family renames the book “If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer.”
September 2007: Simpson, accompanied by five men, confronts two sports-memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room, angrily telling them that most of the memorabilia they are planning to sell is rightfully his.
Oct. 3, 2008: A jury finds Simpson and co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart guilty of kidnapping, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and conspiracy charges. The other accomplices had taken plea deals and received probation.
December 2008: Simpson is sentenced to nine to 33 years and sent to Lovelock Correctional Center in northern Nevada.
October 2010: The Nevada Supreme Court denies Simpson’s appeal but grants Stewart a new trial. Stewart takes a plea deal and is released.
July 25, 2013: Simpson asks the Nevada Parole Board for leniency, saying he has tried to be a model prisoner. He wins parole on some convictions but is left with at least four more years to serve.
June 2017: The parole board sets a July 20 hearing date.
OJ Simpson measures well in Nevada parole risk assessment
By The Associated Press
LAS VEGAS — O.J. Simpson’s bid for release from a Nevada prison will depend not only on what he tells parole officials and a report they will review, but on how they measure the danger he poses to the public.
The board uses an 11-point risk assessment , awarding a range of points for each factor, from -1 to 2, to reach a score that groups parole candidates as low, medium or high risk to commit another crime. The lower the number, the greater the likelihood of release.
Simpson was granted parole in 2013 on a kidnapping charge after receiving a total score of 3 points, which made him low-risk. The board’s decision left Simpson with four years to serve on other charges before reaching his minimum time behind bars.
Scores of 6-11 points rank as medium risk. Twelve or more points reflect high risk.
Here are the risk factors that parole officials will consider Thursday and how Simpson will likely score:
AGE AT FIRST ARREST
Teens score highest risk; inmates 24 or older, lowest. Simpson was 46 when he was arrested in 1994 after a slow-speed chase on Los Angeles-area freeways following the killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. He was acquitted of murder in 1995.
Simpson’s score: 0 points.
PRIOR PROBATION OR PAROLE GETTING REVOKED
Simpson has none.
His score: 0 points.
EMPLOYMENT HISTORY PRIOR TO ARREST
Simpson collects a pension from the National Football League, and retirement counts as full-time employment.
His score: 0 points.
Simpson was convicted in Las Vegas in 2008 of kidnapping, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and conspiracy. Nevada considers robbery and burglary as property offenses.
His score: 2 points.
HISTORY OF DRUG OR ALCOHOL ABUSE
The parole board in 2013 faulted Simpson for alcohol use before his arrest, amounting to “serious disruption of functioning.”
His score: 2 points.
Men receive 1 point, and women, 0 points because data reflects that men are more likely than women to commit another crime.
Simpson’s score: 1 point.
Nevada subtracts 1 point for parole candidates 41 or older. Simpson is 70.
His score: -1 point.
ACTIVE GANG MEMBERSHIP
Being part of a gang adds 2 points. There have been no reports that Simpson has associated with gangs in prison.
His score: 0 points.
Completing an educational, vocational or treatment program subtracts 1 point. Simpson has said he has counseled other inmates, but the board in 2013 gave him 0 points.
His score: 0 points.
Repeated misconduct can earn 2 points, while a clean record for a year can subtract 1 point. Prison officials say Simpson has not had any disciplinary write-ups, and in 2013, he received -1 point.
His score: -1 point.
Medium-security inmates like Simpson earn 0 points.
His score: 0 points.
SIMPSON’S LIKELY FINAL TALLY: 3 points.
Commissioners also will consider letters of support and opposition, comments from his lawyer and a worksheet of guidelines listing 15 or more aggravating and 12 or more mitigating factors that are assessed according to a set of defined rules .
The seven-member board has six members and one vacancy. A majority decision by four board members would grant Simpson parole. A 3-3 tie would bring Simpson back for another hearing in six months.
If an inmate is granted parole, the board can impose conditions on the release.
Simpson has earned sentencing credits and time off for good behavior, cutting his 33-year maximum sentence by more than half. If he is granted parole, he could be out of prison as early as Oct. 1.
LAS VEGAS — O.J. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate No. 1027820, will have a lot going for him when he asks state parole board members this week to release him after serving more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia.
Now 70, Simpson will have history in his favor and a clean record behind bars as he approaches the nine-year minimum of his 33-year sentence for armed robbery and assault with a weapon. Plus, the parole board sided with him once before.
No one at his Thursday hearing is expected to oppose releasing him in October — not his victim, not even the former prosecutor who persuaded a jury in Las Vegas to convict Simpson in 2008.
“Assuming that he’s behaved himself in prison, I don’t think it will be out of line for him to get parole,” said David Roger, the retired Clark County district attorney.
Four other men who went with Simpson to a hotel room to retrieve from two memorabilia dealers sports collectibles and personal items that the former football star said belonged to him took plea deals in the heist and received probation.
Two of those men testified that they carried guns. Another who stood trial with Simpson was convicted and served 27 months before the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Simpson’s fame tainted the jury. Simpson’s conviction was upheld.
Prison life was a stunning fall for a charismatic celebrity whose storybook career as an electrifying running back dubbed “The Juice” won him the Heisman Trophy as the best college player in 1968 and a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
He became a sports commentator, Hollywood movie actor, car rental company spokesman and one of the world’s most famous people even before his Los Angeles “trial of the century,” when he was acquitted in the killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Simpson, appeared grayer and heavier than most remembered him when he was last seen, four years ago.
He will appear Thursday by videoconference from the Lovelock Correctional Center, to be quizzed by four state parole commissioners in Carson City.
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.
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.
Simpson’s lawyer, friends and prison officials say that hasn’t changed.
“He’s really been a positive force in there. He’s done a lot of good for a lot of people,” said Tom Scotto, a friend from Florida whose wedding Simpson was in Las Vegas to attend the weekend of the robbery.
Scotto said he visits or talks with Simpson every few months.
Simpson leads a Baptist prayer group, mentors inmates, works in the gym, coaches sports teams and serves as commissioner of the prison yard softball league, Scotto said.
Scotto will be among the 15 people with Simpson in a small conference room at the prison, along with Simpson’s lawyer, Malcolm LaVergne, daughter Arnelle Simpson and sister Shirley Baker.
A parole case worker, two prison guards and a small pool of media also were expected, along with Andy Caldwell, a retired Las Vegas police detective who investigated the Simpson case, and Bruce Fromong, one of the memorabilia dealers who was robbed.
“I don’t want to offer an opinion,” said Caldwell, now a Christian minister in Lyons, Oregon. “I’m just curious to see how everything unfolds.”
Fromong said he will attend as a victim of the crime but will be “trying to be good for O.J.” He said he suffered four heart attacks and severe financial losses as a result of the robbery but later forgave Simpson.
The other collectibles broker, Alfred Beardsley, died in 2015.
In a nod to Simpson’s celebrity, officials will let the proceedings be streamed live, and the board plans a same-day ruling. A decision usually takes several days.
Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and longtime Simpson case analyst, predicted a “tsunami” of public attention if Simpson wins release.
“If this is the ordinary case, he will be paroled,” Levenson said. “But O.J. is never the ordinary case.”
Al Lasso, a Las Vegas defense attorney who has followed the case but does not represent Simpson, said any other defendant in a similar case probably would have gotten probation, not prison.
“I think he spent more than enough time in prison for a robbery in which he didn’t even have a gun himself,” Lasso said.
But Michael Shapiro, a New York defense lawyer who provided commentary during Simpson’s conviction in Las Vegas in 2008 and his acquittal in Los Angeles in 1995, said freedom was no certainty.
“The judge believed he got away with murder,” Shapiro said. “That’s the elephant in the room. If the parole authorities feel the same way, he could be in trouble.”