O.J. Simpson makes case for freedom before Nevada parole board

By Steve Gorman

CARSON CITY, Nev. (Reuters) – A state parole board in Nevada convened on Thursday morning to consider O.J. Simpson’s bid for freedom after nine years in prison for a botched armed robbery of his own sports memorabilia in a Las Vegas hotel room.

The 70-year-old former football star, known best as the central figure in the so-called Trial of the Century, appeared before the board by live video feed from Lovelock Correctional Center, about 100 miles (161 km) from the parole board’s office in Carson City.

He was joined by supporters including his daughter, sister and one of his robbery victims.

Simpson, 70, whose on-field nickname was “The Juice,” should be an ideal candidate for parole, based on his conduct in prison and other typical factors, according to legal experts.

But the four parole board members who will determine his fate may find it hard to avoid memories of the sensational case that captivated the country, when Simpson was charged with killing his wife, Nicole, and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994.

The same board delivered Simpson a favorable parole ruling in 2013 on some of the robbery-related charges, leaving him with four years to go on his minimum sentence. A similar decision this time would clear the way for Simpson to walk out of prison on Oct. 1.

The board, which normally takes days to render a decision, has said it will announce its ruling the same day in light of the high-profile nature of Simpson’s case.

Despite Simpson’s 1995 acquittal in the murder case in Los Angeles, he was later found civilly liable for the deaths and ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages to the victims’ families, a judgment that has gone largely unpaid.

Exactly 13 years after his acquittal, Simpson was found guilty of storming into a Las Vegas hotel room with four others to retrieve at gunpoint items that he claimed were rightfully his from two sports collectibles dealers.

Simpson won the Heisman Trophy, the award for the top college football player, in 1968 while attending the University of Southern California. He played more than a decade in the National Football League, becoming the first player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.

Following his playing career, Simpson became known for his work as a pitchman in television commercials for companies like Hertz and for roles in movies like the comedy “The Naked Gun.”

(Reporting by Steve Gorman, additional reporting and writing by Joseph Ax in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler and Andrew Hay)