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OJ Simpson faces good chance at parole in Nevada robbery

2017-07-17 02:18:53
By KEN RITTER
Associated Press

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)


LAS VEGAS (AP) 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, a two-hour drive away.

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 Bruce Fromong, one of the memorabilia dealers who was robbed.

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.

Andy Caldwell, a retired Las Vegas police detective who investigated the Simpson case, will be at the prison but won't be in the room.

''I don't want to offer an opinion,'' said Caldwell, now a Christian minister in Mill City, Oregon. ''I'm just curious to see how everything unfolds.''

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.''

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This story has been clarified to show that former police Detective Andy Caldwell will be at the prison but not in hearing room and corrects that his church is in Mill City, Oregon, not Lyons, Oregon.

Player Notes
Russell Wilson Jan 16 6:50pm ET

The Seattle Seahawks hired Brian Schottenheimer as their new offensive coordinator Tuesday. Mike Solari was also named the new offensive line coach. Schottenheimer most recently served as the Colts quarterbacks coach the last two seasons, but he previously was an offensive coordinator with the Jets from 2006-2011, with the St. Louis Rams from 2012-2014 and with the University of Georgia in 2015. Solari spent the last two yearse as the offensive line coach for the Giants. Both Schottenheimer and Solari will have their hands full, mainly fixing the offensive line and getting something out of what was a terrible running game the last two years. Russell Wilson remains one of the best and most athletic quarterbacks in the league, but these new additions don't really figure to benefit him all that much.

Stefon Diggs Jan 16 6:20pm ET

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Adam Thielen Jan 16 6:10pm ET

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Jerick McKinnon Jan 16 6:00pm ET

Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon will look to make it two straight playoff games with a touchdown when the Vikings take on the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. McKinnon punched in a 14-yard score last week against the Saints but will go up against an Eagles defense that has allowed the second fewest fantasy points to opposing backs this season. McKinnon is the de facto backup to Latavius Murray but McKinnon presents more athletic value in the passing game. While the Eagles will try and shut down the Vikings running game, McKinnon could see some opportunities to make some plays in the screen game. The Eagles have allowed only three rushing touchdowns since Week 4 of the regular season which means the Vikings will have to get creative in the red zone. McKinnon's name is flying under the radar in preparation for championship weekend and could certainly provide some fantasy value at a cheap price.

Latavius Murray Jan 16 5:50pm ET

Minnesota Vikings running back Latavius Murray will have a tough matchup Sunday against the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. It will be tough sledding against a defensive unit that has allowed the second fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Up until the Cowboys Ezekiell Elliott's 103 yards in Week 17, the Eagles had not allowed a single 100-yard runner all season. Murray has become a reliable force in the red zone, scoring eight rushing touchdowns in the regular season and punching in for another score last week in the playoffs against the Saints. But the Eagles have allowed only three rushing touchdowns since Week 4, making this one of the stingiest match ups Murray will see all season. Murray could struggle to post a solid fantasy stat-line and will be a touchdown-dependent option this championship weekend.

Travis Kelce Jan 16 5:43pm ET

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Case Keenum Jan 16 5:30pm ET

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum will head into the NFC Championship game against the Eagles with his confidence at an all-time high. Keenum was playing solid football last week against the Saints but it was in the final moments where he really shined in helping create the Minnesota Miracle. He has a career-high 22 touchdown passes during the regular season but will go up against an elite Eagles defense one more stepping stone away from the Super Bowl. The Eagles have allowed the 11th fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season with 19 interceptions during the regular season. The unit has played extremely well of late, holding opponents to less than 227 passing yards in nine of their last 10 games, including the playoffs. Keenum will have to protect the football and could be in line for a less than stellar fantasy stat line. Nonetheless, he will be the second best quarterback option (behind the Patriots' Tom Brady) in fantasy heading towards championship weekend.

Matt Ryan Jan 16 5:10pm ET

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Nick Foles Jan 16 5:03pm ET

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Drew Brees Jan 16 4:30pm ET

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Bobby Wagner Jan 16 4:03pm ET

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Julio Jones Jan 16 3:13pm ET

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David Johnson Jan 16 2:30pm ET

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Leonard Fournette Jan 16 1:40pm ET

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Cliff Avril Jan 16 1:40pm ET

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril (neck) intends to play again in 2018 despite missing most of the 2017 season with a career-threatening neck ailment. "Right now it's all about recovery. I had surgery. I'm in the process of recovering. It's a long process, a long journey. When I get to the end of that, then I'll figure out what's next," Avril said. Avril was injured in Week 4 and missed the rest of the season, and head coach Pete Carroll even said it would be tough for Avril to ever play again. It remains to be seen how effective Avril can be after his neck injury in 2017, but if he can return to anywhere close to his pre-injury form, his return will be a big boost to a Seattle defense that fell off in 2017, mainly due to injuries.

Eli Manning Jan 16 1:20pm ET

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Ben Roethlisberger Jan 16 1:10pm ET

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Hau'oli Kikaha Jan 16 12:53pm ET

New Orleans Saints LB Hau'oli Kikaha (ankle) proclaimed himself 'ready right now' when asked by reporters Tuesday, Jan. 16, whether or not he would be ready for OTAs.

Marcus Mariota Jan 16 12:50pm ET

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Coby Fleener Jan 16 12:43pm ET

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