NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Nevada parole board decided Thursday that O.J. Simpson will be released in October after serving his minimum term for armed robbery and assault with a weapon.
The 70-year-old former football legend served almost nine years of a 33-year sentence for kidnapping and armed robbery after he was convicted of stealing back his own memorabilia at gunpoint at a Las Vegas hotel.
As CBS2’s Chris Martinez reported, Simpson found out he would be released with a unanimous vote from the parole board.
Simpson responded emotionally when the board announced their decision, saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
The decision came after a hearing where Simpson testified that he was remorseful for his part in the armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers.
In 2007, grainy surveillance video from a Las Vegas casino showed Simpson leaving a sports memorabilia dealer’s hotel room and heading back into the national spotlight. Tom Riccio arranged a meeting with dealers who had items apparently stolen from Simpson.
He made an audio recording of the confrontation, parts of which was later played in court.
“You think you can steal my s–t and sell it? Don’t let nobody outta here,” Simpson is heard saying in the recording, which many think played a key role in his kidnapping conviction.
Riccio, who was given immunity and testified for the prosecution, had said “guys with pillowcases pulled out guns and turned it into an armed robbery.”
“I wish Riccio had never called me,” Simpson said Thursday, but added that he takes “full responsibility: for the incident. He told the board he didn’t make any excuses during his nine years behind bars and had no intention of making them during his parole hearing.
“I wish it would have never happened,” Simpson said. “If I could have made a better judgement back then none of this would have happened and I take full responsibility.”
The former sports star described what led up to the armed robbery, saying he never pointed a gun at anyone or made any threats during the crime that put him in prison. Simpson strongly stated that almost all the sports memorabilia items he saw in a collector’s Las Vegas hotel room belonged to him.
“It was my property, I wasn’t there to steal from anybody and I would never, ever pull a weapon on anybody,” Simpson said.
In making his plea for early release, Simpson said he has often mediated conflict among inmates during his time in prison and told the board that an alternative-to-violence course he took has been the most important lesson behind bars.
“I’ve always thought I’ve been pretty good with people and I’ve basically have spent a conflict-free life, I’m not a guy that ever got into fights on the street with the public and everybody,” Simpson said.
Simpson has requested to live in Florida with family if he is released from prison.
“I could easily stay in Nevada but I don’t think you guys want me here,” Simpson said, laughing.
Arnelle Simpson, his oldest child, spoke on behalf of the family and said they just want him to come home.
“We just want him to come home. I know in my heart he is very humbled by this whole situation. This has been really hard,” she said, adding that the family realizes he’s not perfect but has done the best he can.
Arnelle Simpson says she knows her father is remorseful, and the family wants him home so they can move forward. She called her father her best friend and her rock.
Bruce Fromong, one of the robbery victims, says he and Simpson have been friends for almost 27 years and that Simpson is not a threat. He says Simpson’s nearly nine years behind bars is “way too long” and that it’s time for him to go home to his family and friends. He said Simpson is a good man and made a mistake. Turning to Simpson, Fromong said that if Simpson was released: “Juice I’ll be here tomorrow for you.”
In his closing statement, Simpson apologized saying, “I am sorry that things turned out the way they did, I had no intent to commit a crime… I’ve done my time and I’d just like to get back to my family and friends.”
In November 2008, a Nevada jury found Simpson guilty of kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.
“I don’t think in this case no matter what would’ve happened that jury would’ve acquitted O.J. That jury was set in stone day one,” said attorney Gabriel Grasso, who represented Simpson in the trial.
Simpson apologize during his sentencing in December 2008 saying, “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to steal anything from anybody and I didn’t know I was doing anything illegal. I thought I was confronting friends and retrieving my property.”
He was sentenced to a minimum nine years in prison.
Four years ago, Simpson won parole on some convictions but was left with four more years to serve.
The parole board was not allowed to consider Simpson’s murder trial in making its recommendations. It did take into consideration such things as his age, the crimes involved and his behavior while in prison.
Simpson will be able to live on his NFL pension which is an estimated 25,000 a month. By law the Brown and Goldman families are unable to touch these funds to settle the judgement against him.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)