Parole board to decide O.J. Simpson fate

Former American football star O.J. Simpson has spent nearly nine years in prison.

O.J. Simpson, shown here at his 2008 sentencing hearing, could soon go free if a Nevada parole board rules in his favor on Thursday
O.J. Simpson, shown here at his 2008 sentencing hearing, could soon go free if a Nevada parole board rules in his favor on Thursday (POOL/AFP)

Former American football star O.J. Simpson has spent nearly nine years in prison.

Not for the grisly 1994 murders of his ex-wife and a male companion -- he was famously acquitted in that case.

No, Simpson has been behind bars for his role in a September 2007 armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers at a Las Vegas resort.

He could soon go free.

A Nevada parole board will hold a hearing in Carson City on Thursday to decide whether the former National Football League (NFL) star and actor should be released from prison.

Simpson was convicted in October 2008 of armed robbery, assault, kidnapping and other offenses after he and five associates -- two of whom were armed -- ambushed the two sports memorabilia dealers in a casino hotel room.

Simpson, 70, who earned the nickname "The Juice" during his playing days, claimed he was just trying to recover mementos from his career which he said the dealers had stolen.

A Las Vegas jury didn't buy it and Simpson was sentenced to a minimum of nine years in prison and a maximum of 33 years.

Simpson was granted parole in 2013 on some of the charges and he could be freed as early as October 1 if the board agrees on Thursday to grant him parole on the remaining offenses.

Former Clark County district attorney David Roger, who led the 2008 prosecution of Simpson, said he is likely to be given his freedom.

"The guy did a lot of time on a robbery charge," Roger told the New York Post. "I expect he'll probably be paroled.

"Assuming he didn't do anything bad on the inside, I think nine years is a pretty good stay for his charges," he said.

Steve Wolfson, the current Clark County district attorney, told AFP he believes Simpson "makes an excellent candidate for parole.

"The fact that he is a celebrity will have very little bearing (on the hearing), if any," Wolfson said. "He's not going to be treated differently by the parole commissioners."

Simpson will not personally attend the 10 am (1700 GMT) hearing of a four-member panel of the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners.

He will appear by videoconference link from the Lovelock Correctional Center, the medium-security prison where he is serving his sentence.

1994 arrest for wife's murder

Orenthal James "O.J." Simpson shot to fame in the 1970s with the Buffalo Bills after winning the prestigious Heisman Trophy 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 ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a friend of hers, Ron Goldman, were found stabbed to death outside her Los Angeles home.

Simpson was arrested after a low-speed car chase through Los Angeles which was broadcast live by television stations and watched by millions.

He was acquitted in October 1995 after a nine-month racially charged trial, with a verdict that was greeted with widespread 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 ESPN, the sports television behemoth, plans live coverage of Thursday's parole hearing.