O.J. Simpson decision: How did he get parole but can't go free?

O.J. Simpson is in jail for several crimes committed in confronting sports memorabilia collectors in 2007. Because of model behavior, Simpson got parole for some of the crimes, but not for others.

Julie Jacobson/AP/File
O.J. Simpson listens during a hearing in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas earlier this year. On Wednesday, Nevada granted him parole on some of his convictions in a 2007 kidnapping and armed robbery involving the holdup of two sports memorabilia dealers at a Las Vegas hotel room.

In a legal victory for O.J. Simpson, the former football star has been granted parole on some of the charges that have kept him in the Nevada prison system for nearly five years. But he still faces at least four more years in prison.

The decision by the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners means that Mr. Simpson has received parole for some – but not all – of the crimes he committed in a 2007 kidnapping and armed robbery in Las Vegas.

“What it doesn’t mean is that Simpson will be free on Oct. 2 when this decision becomes effective,” says Robert Pugsley, a professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. “Rather he will stay imprisoned for convictions of other crimes he committed in the same event.”

Simpson was convicted in 2008 on charges of kidnapping and robbery stemming from a confrontation he had with two sports memorabilia collectors in a Las Vegas hotel room.  After three co-defendants pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Simpson, he was convicted and sentenced to 33 years in prison with the possibility of parole in nine years.

In appearing before two members of the parole board last week, Simpson said that he has been a model prisoner and that other prisoners come to him for stories and guidance. The board agreed that Simpson has had a positive record in prison, participating in programs that address the issues that put him there.

Addressing the question of whether Simpson is receiving lenient treatment because of his celebrity, Professor Pugsley says: “What people should take away from this decision is that Simpson is not being treated as a celebrity by the Nevada parole board. He made an appeal to the board based on a record of good inmate behavior, and they agreed with his argument.”

Simpson, who is serving his time at Lovelock Correctional Center 90 miles from Reno, faces at least four more years in prison for four weapons-related sentences and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

"We expected it," Patricia Palm, one of Simpson's current lawyers, said of the decision, according to the Associated Press. "There is no reason not to grant him parole. I'm glad they did what they should have done."

Simpson, she said, "is very happy and grateful."

Simpson told the panel that his actions were different from those of other inmates he's met and who have been convicted of similar crimes, even though his actions were still wrong.

“They were trying to steal other people's property,” Simpson said. “They were trying to steal other people's money.... My crime was trying to retrieve for my family my own property."

Simpson’s oldest daughter and a prison official provided letters of support.

Simpson has another chance to get his complete freedom sooner, as a Clark County district judge is considering whether Simpson should get a new trial, based on Simpson’s argument at a May hearing that his trial attorney botched his defense and had a conflict of interest.

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