O.J. Simpson, behind bars in a Nevada prison for almost nine years, is eligible for parole Thursday and one of his former attorneys thinks the matter is all but a forgone conclusion that the former football and TV star will be set free on Oct. 1.
“He’s going to get parole,’’ said Yale Galanter, who represented Simpson during the 2008 trial when Simpson was found guilty of 12 counts, including robbery and kidnapping, and sentenced to nine years minimum and 33 years maximum. “Parole in the state of Nevada is really based on how you behave in prison, and by all accounts he’s been a model prisoner.
“There are no absolutes anytime you’re dealing with administrative boards, but this is as close to a non-personal decision as you can get.’’
Four members from the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners will consider parole for Simpson at the board offices in Carson City, Nev., with the proceedings set to begin Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.
Simpson, 70, will participate by video conference from about 100 miles away at Lovelock Correctional Center, where he has been imprisoned since December 2008.
Parole is largely determined by a point system, and how the commissioners feel about Simpson — or his acquittal in the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman — can have no impact on parole, according to Galanter.
“It really is based on points,’’ he said. “How long have you served, what your disciplinary record is, what the likelihood of committing another crime is, their age, the facts and the circumstances of the case.’’
The parole board has rejected the idea that Simpson could be facing more conservative commissioners because he’s imprisoned in northern Nevada. In a statement published on its website, the parole board said all commissioners use the same risk assessment and guidelines, adding, “There is no evidence that the board is aware of that indicates that one location has panel members who are more conservative or liberal than the other location.’’
Brooke Keast, a spokesperson for the Nevada Department of Corrections, told USA TODAY Sports that Simpson’s disciplinary record is not available to the public and that prison officials do not comment on an inmates' behavior. But a parole hearing in 2013 bodes well for Simpson, according to Galanter.
Simpson, with the help of several other men, broke into a Las Vegas hotel room on Sept. 13, 2007, and stole at gunpoint sports memorabilia that he said to belonged to him. More than a year later, on Oct. 8, 2008, he was found guilty by a jury on all 12 charges.
He was granted parole in 2013 on the armed robbery convictions. Galanter called that “the clearest indicator’’ Simpson will be granted parole on the remaining counts Thursday.
Simpson is being considered for parole for kidnapping, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and the use of a deadly weapon enhancement.
“It’s a fairly routine administrative matter,’’ the attorney said. “It’s more like, 'Mr. Simpson, you’ve been a model prisoner, you have the points, congratulations, do you have anything to say, thank you very much, granted, Oct. 1."
Yet, it won’t exactly be routine. The parole board, for example, has said it will issue a decision Thursday so to minimize distractions. The results of some hearings, by contrast, take three weeks to reach the inmate.
“The media interest in this one case is a disruption to our operation,’’ the parole board said in its statement. “A decision (on Simpson) is being made at the time of the hearing so that the board’s operation can return to normal as soon as possible after the hearing.’’
A simply majority of four commissioners will lead to Simpson being granted or denied parole.
If the four commissioners at the hearing are not in agreement, two additional commissioners will participate from Las Vegas by phone or video conference. The commission usually includes seven members, but currently it has only six because a vacancy occurred June 30 and the replacement will not begin until after Simpson’s hearing.
If the six votes are split, a subsequent parole hearing will be held in January 2018.
Simpson will have an opportunity to address the board by video conference as he did during the 2013 hearing.
More 240 media credentials have been approved, according to Keats who said a dozen satellite trucks are expected at the sites in both in Carson City and Lovelock.
If Simpson is paroled, the media figures to return in droves Oct. 1, when he will be released from prison.
“In terms of what he does with the rest of his life,’’ Galanter said, “If he was sitting next to me I’d say, 'Listen, be thankful you got out in nine years. Go live in some small, quaint little golf community, stay under the radar, don’t attract any attention and spend as much time as you can with your family and your friends with whatever time you have left on the planet and just don’t cause any trouble.' ’’
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