By KEN RITTER
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.''
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.
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (concussion) remained sidelined at Friday's practice. He is still in concussion protocol and Tevin Coleman is scheduled to be the Falcons' lead back Monday night in Seattle. Seattle has the 5th-best defense against RB, making Coleman a mid-range RB2. Terron Ward will be Coleman's change of pace.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (ankle) is "still not right," and he could be limited if he plays this week against the Browns, according to Florida Football Insiders. T.J. Yeldon played 36.9% of the snaps last week against the Chargers with Fournette in on 53.9% of the downs. Fournette, however, was nonexistent in the fourth quarter before coming back out for overtime while Chris Ivory played eight snaps. Fournette was downgraded to DNP on Friday after being limited Wednesday and Thursday. If he does play, we could be in for a similar Fournette-Yeldon split, and if the rookie sits, expect Yeldon and Ivory to split the load. Fournette is looking like a risky RB2 if he suits up and merely a DFS tournament play.
Green Bay Packers running back Ty Montgomery (ribs) is unlikely to play Week 11 against the Ravens, according to coach Mike McCarthy . McCarthy said it's not a long-term concern, but it will be Jamaal Williams and Devante Mays this week in a tough spot. Williams managed just 67 yards on 20 carries in relief against the Bears last week. Wiliams is a low-upside RB3 play who should get volume, but will likely need a TD to be worth it.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara is on pace for more than 1,400 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns despite being in a timeshare with starter Mark Ingram. Kamara has proven he can handle the load and then some. His QB, Drew Brees, had a ton of praise for the rookie. "He's got some unique talents and a unique skill set. But I think more so than that, he's got the intelligence to handle it all and, I think, a maturity, too, beyond his years..." Kamara must be locked in as a RB1 for the remainder of this season, regardless of matchup. Washington has been in the middle of the pack defensively this season, but looked terrible last year against Minnesota. Kamara should have little trouble in Week 11.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas will continue to be a target hog in Week 11 when the Saints face the Redskins. Thomas has seen double-digit targets in five of nine games this season and ranks fourth in the league with 59 receptions. Thomas needs just four catches Sunday to rank second in league history with 155 catches in his first 25 NFL games (Odell Beckham Jr. had 176, Anquan Boldin had 154). He will sustain a high floor in PPR leagues, although his lack of touchdowns (two) holds him back from being a WR1. Thomas insisted that "soon, eventually, I'll have that breakthrough where I'll start scoring when I need to start scoring." But, he said, "ultimately it's not about that."
Miami Dolphins tight end Julius Thomas may be entering the fantasy radar at the right time. Thomas didn't score his first touchdown of the year until Week 9 against Oakland, but he made it two in a row with another score last week. Thomas is gaining his quarterback's trust and has a nice matchup against the Tampa Bay Bucs on deck, but is still mostly TD-dependent for value. He has only caught more than three passes once all season, also coming in Week 9. If you stream tight ends, you could do worse in standard leagues.
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been about safe a play as possible this season, but the Arizona Cardinals possess something that could greatly limit his impact: Patrick Peterson. Peterson is expected to shadow Hopkins, which could make life tough for the receiver. He still has upside since quarterback Tom Savage will almost be forced to throw the ball his way regardless of matchup, but fantasy owners expecting too much out of Hopkins might wind up disappointed.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (ankle) is questionable for Week 11 against the Cowboys. Early indications are that Jeffery's injury will not keep him out of Sunday's game against the Cowboys, but there is still doubt. It will be important to see if he practices on Friday. For now, he can still be looked at as a high-end WR2 this week.
Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell turned in a big game on Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans. The veteran kicker nailed all four of his field goal attempts, including a 50-yarder, while also adding four extra points. Boswell finished the night with 16 total points as the Steelers ran away from the Titans, 40-17. Boswell remains one of the better fantasy kickers in the NFL as he should continue to see a high volume of field goal attempts going forward. On the year, Boswell is tied for third in the league with 20 field goals and 23 attempts. Continue to roll with him in Week 12, when the Steelers take on the Green Bay Packers at home.
The Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST turned in a big game on Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans. Pittsburgh held Tennessee to just 17 points while intercepting Marcus Mariota four times and adding five sacks. The Steelers defense has been a solid fantasy option this season, having held their opponents to 17 points or less in five straight games while logging at least two sacks in each game this season and notching a turnover in every game but one. They draw another favorable matchup in Week 12 when they take on the Brett Hundley-led Green Bay Packers at home.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell was limited on the ground by the Tennessee Titans in Week 11. He saw just 12 carries, finishing with 46 rushing yards on the evening. He did finish with nine catches for 57 yards to at least salvage his fantasy day in PPR leagues. Don't get too concerned about Bell's light workload on Thursday night. The Steelers went away from their recent run-heavy offensive attack as they clearly game planned to pick on a Titans secondary that has been vulnerable this season. He remains one of the few workhorse running backs in the league and should bounce back in Week 12 in a home game against a weak Green Bay Packers defense.
Green Bay wide receiver Randall Cobb will face an unfavorable matchup in Week 11 when Green Bay takes on Baltimore. Cobb has been lost in Green Bay's offense the past several years in large part to his inability to deal with press coverage. Baltimore utilizes press coverage frequently. Cobb has had some respectable if underwhelming fantasy days with Brett Hundley under center, but most of his production has come on big catch and runs, something Cobb has only done on only an inconsistent basis recently. Cobb has a low ceiling and low floor in Week 11 and should be kept out of line-ups in almost all situations.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James had his best game since Week 1 as he helped his team beat the Tennessee Titans 40-17 on Thursday night. James caught 5-of-8 targets for 21 yards and a touchdown in the game. His usage was certainly bolstered by the team ruling out Vance McDonald before the game. James now has three total scores on the season after scoring for the first time since Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns. Despite the solid game, James remains a low-end, touchdown-dependent TE2, especially when Vance McDonald is active.
Houston Texans rookie running back D'Onta Foreman has looked good at times this season, but he's had the kind of up-and-down season--four games of double-digit carries, and then no carries against the Seahawks, for instance--that makes him hard to trust in fantasy, especially as the season winds down and each decision becomes magnified. Foreman could see the ball a lot against the Cardinals, or he could end up with four carries. That level of variance makes him just a low-tier flex option.
As a double-digit underdog at home against the Chiefs, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning will look to capitalize against a defense that is near the bottom of the league against the pass. Manning has thrown for two touchdowns each of the last two weeks in comeback efforts that have fallen short. Expect the Giants to be down and looking throw throughout his Week 11 matchup. He is a low-end starting option once again.
Coming off one of the best games of his career in Week 10, New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard looks to be locked in for double digit targets in his Week 11 matchup against the Chiefs. Shepard should face off against Steven Nelson for most of the game, one of the worst graded cornerbacks in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. He has a safe floor for Week 11 and has the upside of delivering another 100 yard receiving game. Shepard is a WR2 in all formats this week.
After stumbling through a lackluster season, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethsliberger roared to life on Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans, shredding them for 299 passing yards and four touchdowns. Thursday night marked the first time Roethlisberger threw more than two touchdowns all season in what has been a down year for him. The veteran quarterback had no trouble moving the ball against a leaky Titans pass defense, completing 30-of-45 passes in Pittsburgh's 40-17 win. He will look to stay hot in Week 12 as he will take on a weak Green Bay Packers defense at home.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown turned in a vintage performance against the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night. Brown destroyed the Titans with 10 catches for 144 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 40-17 Pittsburgh win. Brown certainly left his fantasy owners feeling good a week after turning in a disappointing three-catch, 47-yard outing against the Indianapolis Colts. Brown showed yet again why he's the top fantasy wide receiver in all of the NFL. He now has 70 catches for 1,026 yards and six touchdowns through 10 games, giving him five straight 1,000-yard seasons.
Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller has been frustrating for fantasy owners this season. Miller was inconsistent while Deshaun Watson was the team's quarterback, but he's looked more effective now that Tom Savage is starting-Miller's two best games this season in terms of yards-per-carry came in the past two weeks. The problem? He only has combined 22 carries in those two games. Houston needs to recommit to the run this week. If they do, expect Miller to put up solid numbers. He's a risky play, but one that could be rewarding.
Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage hasn't looked great in his two starts since taking over for the injured Deshaun Watson. His two touchdowns to only three interceptions isn't good, but it isn't as terrible as it could be. Factor in three fumbles over the past two games--and another pair when he started the team's season-opener--and a picture starts to develop: one of Savage as an unfit fantasy option. Fantasy owners in leagues that start two-quarterbacks might be forced to make that choice, but no one else should.