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O.J. Simpson granted parole after nearly 9 years in prison

Associated Press logo Associated Press 7/20/2017 By KEN RITTER, Associated Press
CORRECTS SOURCE TO KOLO-TV - Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson appears via video for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier. (KOLO-TV via AP, Pool) © The Associated Press CORRECTS SOURCE TO KOLO-TV - Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson appears via video for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier. (KOLO-TV via AP, Pool)

LOVELOCK, Nev. (AP) — O.J. Simpson was granted parole Thursday after more than eight years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel heist, successfully making his case in a nationally televised hearing that reflected America's enduring fascination with the former football star.

Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson enters for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier. (Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP, Pool) © The Associated Press Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson enters for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier. (Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP, Pool)

Simpson, 70, could be a free man as early as Oct. 1. By then, he will have served the minimum of his nine-to-33-year armed-robbery sentence for a bungled attempt to snatch sports memorabilia and other mementos he claimed had been stolen from him.

Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson enters for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier. (Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP, Pool) © The Associated Press Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson enters for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier. (Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP, Pool)

He got the four votes he needed from the parole commissioners who heard his case. In agreeing to release him, they cited his lack of a prior conviction, the low risk he might commit another crime, his community support and his release plans.

CORRECTS SOURCE TO KOLO-TV - Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson appears with his attorney, Malcolm LaVergne, left, via video for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier. (KOLO-TV via AP, Pool) © The Associated Press CORRECTS SOURCE TO KOLO-TV - Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson appears with his attorney, Malcolm LaVergne, left, via video for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier. (KOLO-TV via AP, Pool)

During the more than hour-long hearing, Simpson forcefully insisted — as he has all along — that he was only trying to retrieve items that belonged to him and never meant to hurt anyone. He said he never pointed a gun at anyone nor made any threats during the crime.

CORRECTS SOURCE TO KOLO-TV - Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson appears via video for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier. (KOLO-TV via AP) © The Associated Press CORRECTS SOURCE TO KOLO-TV - Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson appears via video for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier. (KOLO-TV via AP)

"I've done my time. I've done it as well and respectfully as I think anybody can," he said.

FILE - In this March 24, 1978 file photo, O.J. Simpson, left, smiles next to San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. at a news conference where the 49ers announced that Simpson had been traded to them from the Buffalo Bills, in San Francisco. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017, seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo/Sal Veder, file) © The Associated Press FILE - In this March 24, 1978 file photo, O.J. Simpson, left, smiles next to San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. at a news conference where the 49ers announced that Simpson had been traded to them from the Buffalo Bills, in San Francisco. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017, seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo/Sal Veder, file)

Inmate No. 1027820 made his plea for freedom in a stark hearing room at the Lovelock Correctional Center in rural Nevada as four parole commissioners in Carson City, a two-hour drive away, questioned him via video.

FILE - In this May 15, 2013 file photo, O.J. Simpson returns to the witness stand to testify after a break during an evidentiary hearing in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017, seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, Pool, file) © The Associated Press FILE - In this May 15, 2013 file photo, O.J. Simpson returns to the witness stand to testify after a break during an evidentiary hearing in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017, seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, Pool, file)

Simpson, gray-haired but looking trimmer than he has in recent years, walked briskly into the hearing room dressed in jeans, a light-blue prison-issue shirt and sneakers. He laughed at one point as the parole board chairwoman mistakenly gave his age as 90.

FILE - In this June 15, 1995 file photo, O.J. Simpson, left, grimaces as he tries on one of the leather gloves prosecutors say he wore the night his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered in a Los Angeles courtroom. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017, seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo/Sam Mircovich, Pool, file) © The Associated Press FILE - In this June 15, 1995 file photo, O.J. Simpson, left, grimaces as he tries on one of the leather gloves prosecutors say he wore the night his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered in a Los Angeles courtroom. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017, seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo/Sam Mircovich, Pool, file)

The Hall of Fame athlete's chances of winning release were considered good, given similar cases and Simpson's model behavior behind bars. His defenders have argued, too, that his sentence was out of proportion to the crime and that he was being punished for the two murders he was acquitted of during his 1995 "Trial of the Century" in Los Angeles, the stabbings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

FILE - In this Sept. 3, 1977 file photo, Buffalo Bills' O.J. Simpson (32) runs past Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Council Rudolph (78) during an NFL football game in Buffalo, N.Y. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017, seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo, file) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Sept. 3, 1977 file photo, Buffalo Bills' O.J. Simpson (32) runs past Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Council Rudolph (78) during an NFL football game in Buffalo, N.Y. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017, seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo, file)

Before the hearing concluded, one of the dealers Simpson robbed, Bruce Fromong, said the former football great never pointed a gun at him during the confrontation, adding that it was one of the men with him who did so. Fromong said Simpson deserved to be released.

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 1995 file photo, attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr., right, holds onto O.J. Simpson as the not guilty verdict is read in a Los Angeles courtroom. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017, seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo/Pool, Myung J. Chun, file) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Oct. 3, 1995 file photo, attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr., right, holds onto O.J. Simpson as the not guilty verdict is read in a Los Angeles courtroom. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017, seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo/Pool, Myung J. Chun, file)

"He is a good man. He made a mistake," Fromong said, adding the two remain friends.

FILE - In this May 6, 1980 file photo, O.J. Simpson, right, poses for photos with friend Nicole Brown at party in the Beverly Hills section of Los Angeles. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017, seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, file) © The Associated Press FILE - In this May 6, 1980 file photo, O.J. Simpson, right, poses for photos with friend Nicole Brown at party in the Beverly Hills section of Los Angeles. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017, seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, file)

Simpson's eldest child, 48-year-old Arnelle Simpson, also testified on his behalf, saying her father is not perfect but realizes what a mistake he made and has spent years paying for it.

FILE- In this May 14, 2013 file photo, O.J. Simpson's friend Tom Scotto appears at an evidentiary hearing for Simpson in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. On Thursday, July 20, 2017, O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Ethan Miller, Pool, File) © The Associated Press FILE- In this May 14, 2013 file photo, O.J. Simpson's friend Tom Scotto appears at an evidentiary hearing for Simpson in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. On Thursday, July 20, 2017, O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Ethan Miller, Pool, File)

"We just want him to come home, we really do," she said.

FILE- In this May 16, 2013 file photo, Malcolm LaVergne, O.J. Simpson's attorney on appeals to Nevada Supreme Court, testifies during an evidentiary hearing in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. On Thursday, July 20, 2017, O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, Pool, File) © The Associated Press FILE- In this May 16, 2013 file photo, Malcolm LaVergne, O.J. Simpson's attorney on appeals to Nevada Supreme Court, testifies during an evidentiary hearing in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. On Thursday, July 20, 2017, O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, Pool, File)

Simpson said that he has spent his time in prison mentoring fellow inmates, often keeping others out of trouble, and believes he has become a better person during those years.

FILE - This May 20, 2014 file photo shows Fred Goldman, father of murder victim Ronald Goldman, in his home in Peoria, Ariz. On Thursday, July 20, 2017, O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Matt York, File) © The Associated Press FILE - This May 20, 2014 file photo shows Fred Goldman, father of murder victim Ronald Goldman, in his home in Peoria, Ariz. On Thursday, July 20, 2017, O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Asked if he was confident he could stay out of trouble if he's released, Simpson replied that he learned much during an alternative-to-violence course he took in prison and that in any case he has always gotten along well with people.

FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2008 file photo, prosecution opening witness Bruce Fromong displays a signed photo entered into evidence on the first day of the O.J. Simpson case. On Thursday, July 20, 2017, O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (Jae C. Hong/POOL, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2008 file photo, prosecution opening witness Bruce Fromong displays a signed photo entered into evidence on the first day of the O.J. Simpson case. On Thursday, July 20, 2017, O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (Jae C. Hong/POOL, File)
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"I had basically spent a conflict-free life," he said — a remark that lit up social media with scornful and sarcastic comments given the murder case and a raft of allegations he abused his wife.

FILE - In this May 14, 2013 file photo, Gabriel Grasso, former defense attorney for O.J. Simpson, holds up his iPad while testifying at Simpson's evidentiary hearing in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. On Thursday, July 20, 2017, O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Ethan Miller, Pool, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this May 14, 2013 file photo, Gabriel Grasso, former defense attorney for O.J. Simpson, holds up his iPad while testifying at Simpson's evidentiary hearing in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. On Thursday, July 20, 2017, O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Ethan Miller, Pool, File)

In a final statement to the board he apologized again.

FILE - In this May 15, 2014 file photo, Kim Goldman talks about her late brother, Ronald Goldman, who was murdered with his friend Nicole Brown Simpson in 1994, during an interview at her home in Santa Clarita, Calif. On Thursday, July 20, 2017, O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this May 15, 2014 file photo, Kim Goldman talks about her late brother, Ronald Goldman, who was murdered with his friend Nicole Brown Simpson in 1994, during an interview at her home in Santa Clarita, Calif. On Thursday, July 20, 2017, O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

"I'm sorry it happened, I'm sorry, Nevada," he said. "I thought I was glad to get my stuff back, but it just wasn't worth it. It wasn't worth it and I'm sorry."

FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2007 file photo, O.J. Simpson lawyer Yale Galanter talks to the media outside Clark County Justice courtroom after Simpson's arraignment in Las Vegas. On Thursday, July 20, 2017 O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2007 file photo, O.J. Simpson lawyer Yale Galanter talks to the media outside Clark County Justice courtroom after Simpson's arraignment in Las Vegas. On Thursday, July 20, 2017 O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

Several major TV networks and cable channels — including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and ESPN — carried the proceedings live, just as some of them did two decades ago during the Ford Bronco chase that ended in Simpson's arrest, and again when the jury in the murder case came back with its verdict.

FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2007 file photo, O.J. Simpson's daughter Arnelle, right, and Simpson's sister Shirley Baker chat in a Clark County Justice courtroom before Simpson's arraignment in Las Vegas. On Thursday, July 20, 2017 O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2007 file photo, O.J. Simpson's daughter Arnelle, right, and Simpson's sister Shirley Baker chat in a Clark County Justice courtroom before Simpson's arraignment in Las Vegas. On Thursday, July 20, 2017 O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool, File)

Simpson said if released he plans to return to Florida, where he was living before his incarceration.

FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2007 file photo, Denise Brown, sister of Nicole Brown Simpson,responds during an interview with Beaufort Books President Eric Kampmann, during a segment of the NBC "Today" television program in New York. On Thursday, July 20, 2017 O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2007 file photo, Denise Brown, sister of Nicole Brown Simpson,responds during an interview with Beaufort Books President Eric Kampmann, during a segment of the NBC "Today" television program in New York. On Thursday, July 20, 2017 O.J. Simpson faces a parole board hearing in Nevada. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

"I could easily stay in Nevada, but I don't think you guys want me here," he joked at one point.

"No comment, sir," one of the parole board members said.

An electrifying running back dubbed "The Juice," Simpson won the Heisman Trophy as the nation's best college football player in 1968 and went on to become one of the NFL's all-time greats.

The handsome and charismatic athlete was also a "Monday Night Football" commentator, sprinted through airports in Hertz rental-car commercials and built a Hollywood career with roles in the "Naked Gun" comedies and other movies.

All of that came crashing down with his arrest in the 1994 slayings and his trial, a gavel-to-gavel live-TV sensation that transfixed viewers with its testimony about the bloody glove that didn't fit and stirred furious debate over racist police, celebrity justice and cameras in the courtroom.

Last year, the case proved to be compelling TV all over again with the ESPN documentary "O.J.: Made in America" and the award-winning FX miniseries "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story."

In 1997, Simpson was found liable in civil court for the two killings and ordered to pay $33.5 million to survivors, including his children and the Goldman family.

Then a decade later, he and five accomplices — two with guns — stormed a hotel room and seized photos, plaques and signed balls, some of which never belonged to Simpson, from two sports memorabilia dealers.

Simpson was convicted in 2008, and the long prison sentence brought a measure of satisfaction to some of those who thought he got away with murder.

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