O.J. Simpson is about to be a free man.
After nearly nine years in prison, the notorious football star—also known as Orenthal James Simpson—will be released from the Nevada Lovelock Correctional Center as early as Oct. 1, 2017. A panel of four parole commissioners granted him parole today with a total of four unanimous votes.
O.J. was set to serve a 9- to 33-year sentence at the prison—a sentencing that came after he was convicted in 2008 of kidnapping and armed robbery, along with 10 other charges.
“Our decision, although difficult, is fair and just,” one officer told the court.
At the time of the 2008 trial, prosecutors said the Hall of Famer (along with five other men) were armed with deadly weapons when they walked into a Las Vegas casino hotel room back in September 2007 where they stole memorabilia such as signed game balls and photos.
Four co-defendants pleaded guilty to felony charges before the trial and later testified for the prosecution. O.J.’s defense team, on the other hand, argued that the athlete was simply trying to retrieve his personal items that had been previously stolen.
During the hearing today, Simpson stuck to that defense, reiterating that he was trying to get back what he said was “personal,” stolen property, including “intimate family photos” and documents of his accomplishments.
However, at this point, he said the most important thing to him now is to return to his family. He noted that he’s been clean over the last nearly nine years of his prison sentence and is ready to return to life as a free man.
“I do have four kids. I’ve missed a lot of time with those kids,” Simpson told the court. “I think I’m a guy who’s always been a giving guy—even on the street. People have always come up to me. My reputation has always been that I’m open to the public. I’m open to everybody. Right now I’m at a point in my life where all I want to do is spend time with my children and my friends.”
He continued, “I’ve done my time. I’ve done it as respectfully as anyone can…I’ve not complained for nine years…I want to get back to my kids and my family.”
As for how he’ll handle his highly-publicized life and the potential public scrutiny after his release, he said he won’t be taking any interviews and added, “I’m not a guy who lived a criminal life. I’m a pretty straight shooter…I have no problem, none whatsoever, in living with those conditions.”
He continued , “Wherever we’ve been, it’s always a crowd. This is not new to me. [But] rarely—even in the last 20 years—rarely have I ever had people give me any negative stuff in the street…I’m pretty easily approachable. I’ve dealt with it my whole life, and I really don’t see any problem dealing with the public at all.”
Simpson’s eldest child, Arnelle Simpson, also spoke out during the hearing today.
“I’m here on behalf of my family for the purpose of expressing what we believe is the true character of my father,” she told the court, emotionally. “No one really knows how much we have been through this ordeal in the last nine years. My experience with him is that he’s like my best friend and my rock. As a family, we recognize that he’s not the best many but he’s done his best to speak to his overall nature and character, which is to be positive no matter what.”
She admitted of the 2007 robbery incident, “My dad recognized he took the wrong approach and could have handled it differently. My siblings and I and family know that he didn’t make the right decision on that day, but we know that his intentions were not to go in and to just make the wrong decision at the wrong time.”
Bruce Fromong, the only surviving victim of the armed robbery, spoke out in support of Simpson’s parole, admitting the former football player never held a gun to him or touched him.
“O.J. has always been my friend, and I hope still remains my friend,” Fromong said. “O.J. never held a gun on me…Another man came in, hit me. Not O.J. He never laid a hand on me.”
He continued, “We all make mistakes. O.J. made his, [but] what I’ve been told is that O.J. has been a model inmate. I don’t feel he’s a threat to anyone out there. He’s a good man. I feel that nine and a half years to 33 years is way too long. I feel like it’s time to give him a second chance, to go home for his family.
Fromong concluded through tears, “If he called me tomorrow and said, ‘I’m getting out will you pick me up?’ I’d be here tomorrow.”
Former Lovelock guard Jeffrey Felix, who worked at O.J.’s prison, previously opened up to Page Six about the highly publicized athlete before this parole hearing, defending his good behavior in prison.
“O.J. thinks he deserves his parole—he’s been clean for nine years, hasn’t had any write-ups, took all the programs and classes they told him to take—but he thinks all this media hype is going to screw with the parole board and put pressure on them to keep him locked up,” Jeffrey explained. “He’s been told there will be media tents outside, pool reporters in his room and the Carson City hearing room, and cameras sending a live feed to the media outside. He is asking why they are fostering a circus-like environment for his hearing.”
Simpson previously appeared before the parole board in July 2013, during which he was granted parole on some of the charges but not all. At the time, he expressed regret to the commissioners about his encounter.
A former inmate also opened up to the Los Angeles Times about Simpson’s behavior behind bars.
“He’s popular especially with the sports crowd—guys go up to him and ask him what he thinks about current sports teams,” Jon Hawkins shared with the publication. “O.J. is just a regular dude. He does his job, and he goes to his cell.”
As for Simpson’s infamous 1995 trial regarding the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, the court began today’s hearing by noting they would not take any of it into consideration for the outcome of today’s hearing.
Simpson can be released asearly as Oct. 1, 2017.