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LOS ANGELES, USA (UPDATED) – Disgraced American football star O.J. Simpson – who was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend but later jailed for armed robbery – was granted parole Thursday after nearly nine years in prison.
A 4-member parole board in the western US state of Nevada voted unanimously to free the 70-year-old Simpson after a public hearing broadcast live by news networks.
Simpson, who was emotional as the decision was announced, could walk free as early as October 1.
“I’ve done my time, you know?” he told the parole board. “I’ve done it as well and as respectfully as I think anybody can.
“If I would have made a better judgment back then, none of this would have never happened,” he said of the September 2007 robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers that led to his prison sentence.
Simpson was found not guilty in 1995 of the grisly murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a male companion, Ron Goldman, in a racially charged case that transfixed America and became known as the “Trial of the Century.”
But the former National Football League running back and actor was sent to prison in 2008 for his role in a robbery at a Las Vegas resort.
Simpson appeared Thursday before the Nevada parole board by videoconference from Lovelock Correctional Center, the medium-security prison where he is serving his sentence.
Seated behind a plain wooden table, he was wearing standard-issue blue jeans, a light blue button-down shirt, a white T-shirt and white sneakers.
Simpson appeared to have lost weight and looked healthier than during his last parole board appearance four years ago.
“I’ve spent nine years making no excuses about anything,” Simpson said. “I am sorry that things turned out the way they did.
“I had no intent to commit a crime,” he said. “My commitment to change is to be a better person.
“Right now I’m at a point in my life where all I want to do is spend time, as much time as I can, with my children and my friends,” Simpson said, adding that he intended to settle in Florida.
Also present at the Lovelock center was Simpson‘s eldest daughter Arnelle, who testified on his behalf and held her hand over her mouth as the commissioners voted for her father’s release.
Simpson‘s sister Shirley wept openly.
Simpson was convicted in October 2008 of armed robbery, assault, kidnapping and other offenses after he and 5 associates – two of whom were armed – ambushed the two sports memorabilia dealers in a casino hotel room.
He was sentenced to a minimum of 9 years in prison and a maximum of 33 years.
Bruce Fromong, one of the dealers, testified on Simpson‘s behalf on Thursday, saying his “friend” deserved to be released from prison.
The other dealer, Alfred Beardsley, died in November 2015.
Fall from grace
Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson shot to fame in the 1970s with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills after winning the prestigious Heisman Trophy – the award for the best player in American collegiate football – as a running back at the University of Southern California.
He retired from football in 1979 after setting numerous rushing records and went on to become an advertising pitchman and actor (“The Towering Inferno,” “The Naked Gun”).
In June 1994, Simpson‘s 35-year-old ex-wife, Brown Simpson, and Goldman were found stabbed to death outside her Los Angeles home.
Simpson was arrested after a low-speed car chase through Los Angeles that was broadcast live by television stations and watched by millions.
He was acquitted in October 1995 after a nine-month trial, a verdict that was greeted with disbelief by many Americans.
Public views on the African-American athlete’s guilt or innocence divided sharply along racial lines.
Simpson was subsequently found liable for the deaths in a 1997 civil suit and was ordered to pay damages totaling $33.5 million to the families of the victims.
Simpson has been out of the limelight while behind bars, but fascination with the former football star lives on.
“O.J.: Made in America,” a nearly eight-hour documentary about his murder trial, won the best documentary Oscar in February.
And a television mini-series, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” starring Cuba Gooding Jr as the former NFL star, won 9 Emmy awards. – Rappler.com