Former NFL star O.J. Simpson was paroled during a hearing in Carson City, Nev. Thursday, after a unanimous vote by a four member commission.
Simpson appeared in good spirits as the hearing began at 1 p.m. EST. He smiled, laughed, nodded and interacted pleasantly with the parole board throughout Thursday’s proceedings.
Simpson, now 70, has spent the last nine years in a medium-security prison in Nevada. Prison officials say he has kept a low profile in jail, and describe him as a model prisoner.
“Simpson has stayed out of trouble there,” said Brooke Keast, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Corrections. “We haven’t heard much from him.”
The parole board noted he had not been disciplined by prison officials during his sentence, and had voluntarily participated in extensive rehabilitation programs. On the basis of these factors, the parole board concluded his overall profile put him at a low risk of recidivism.
Simpson was convicted of 12 felony charges, including kidnapping and armed robbery, in 2008, after he and a team of armed accomplices stormed the Palace Station Hotel-Casino, and carried off valuable sports memorabilia worth thousands of dollars. Simpson claimed many of the items, which related to his professional career in the NFL, belonged to him. He also claimed several of the items had been stolen from his home.
“I didn’t want to hurt anybody,” Simpson said during sentencing in 2008. “I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong.”
During Thursday’s hearing, Simpson insisted the items he took were his personal property, that the armed individuals with him were merely bodyguards, and that the individuals he robbed were longtime friends. At one point he described his conviction as “mind-boggling” as the state of California had determined some of the property in question was in fact his.
Simpson elsewhere claimed to have lived a “conflict-free life.” He denied an ongoing problem with alcohol abuse, despite administrative findings to the contrary. He promised to enter an Alcoholics Anonymous program during a 2013 hearing.
Bruce Fromong, one of the victims of the Las Vegas robbery, also testified in favor of Simpson’s parole.
The Law Vegas robbery aside, Simpson remains notorious for the 1994 murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. He was charged with the crimes but escaped conviction at the conclusion of a high-profile trial that continues to inspire intense interest and controversy.
Though those proceedings were not considered during Thursday’s hearing, a familiar figure from that drama reemerged after a 20-year respite. Simpson, with an air of breezy self-assurance supplemented by incredulous expressions and hushed remarks, continued to plead his innocence. The display prompted a question about humility from commissioner Susan Jackson.
“Are you humbled by this incarceration?” she asked.
Simpson didn’t have a direct answer.
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