By Cindy Boren
Moments after he became eligible for parole, O.J. Simpson was released from a Nevada prison early Sunday morning after serving nine years for a 2007 robbery and kidnapping incident in Las Vegas.
The Hall of Fame football player left Lovelock Correctional Center with an unidentified driver at 12:08 a.m., Brooke Keast, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Corrections told The Los Angeles Times, saying simply: “He is out.”
The destination for Simpson, now 70, is as much a mystery as his future. “I do not know where he’s going. I didn’t want to know, to be honest,” Keast said.
Will he live in California, where he was acquitted of double murder in the so-called trial of the century in 1995, or will he go to Florida, where he was living before his arrest? And how will he be received after being the subject of a popular miniseries and documentary on his murder trial?
Simpson departed the northwest Nevada prison wearing denim and white sneakers.
“It was incident-free. Nobody followed. It was exactly what we’d hoped we could do for public safety,” Keast told reporters. “It was a public safety concern. To make it quiet, under the radar and incident-free.”
Simpson, originally sentenced to nine-to-33 years in prison for conducting a sting to retrieve memorabilia from his sports career, was granted parole in July, with a date of “on or after Oct. 1″ set. He had reacted emotionally, mouthing a “thank you” as four members of the Nevada Board of Prisons delivered their votes for parole.
“I can tell from his voice on the phone ... that he’s looking forward to freedom and hugging his family on the outside,” Malcolm LaVergne, Simpson’s lawyer, told the Times in an interview conducted before the release.
Simpson has four adult children, two of whom live in Florida, and LaVergne told the Associated Press that “there’s no doubt he’s going to Florida.” Tom Scotto, a friend and golfing buddy, has offered his home in Naples to Simpson.
However, that state’s attorney general informed the Florida Department of Corrections on Friday that he is not welcome there.
“Floridians are well aware of Mr. Simpson’s background, his wanton disregard for the lives of others, and of his scofflaw attitude with respect to the heinous acts for which he has been found civilly liable,” Pam Bondi wrote in the letter (via Associated Press). “Our state should not become a country club for this convicted criminal.”
Whatever the future holds for Simpson, it is likely to be somewhat surreal, given his past and the circumstances surrounding his parole hearing.
An apologetic Simpson, who had not been publicly seen since being granted parole in a 2013 hearing on lesser charges, appeared far slimmer and more fit than he did then, wearing dark slacks and a blue button-up shirt over a white T-shirt during the hearing. Simpson cracked up when he was initially told that his hearing is the same that all inmates receive, despite the media attention this hearing is attracting. Unexpected levity followed when a commissioner listed his age as 90, rather than 70. “You look great for 90!” she said.
Offered the chance to make a statement, Simpson apologized. “I’ve come here and spent nine years making no excuses about anything. I am sorry things turned out the way they did. ... I tell inmates all the time ‘Don’t complain about your grind. Do your time.’ ... I believe in the jury system. I will honor the decision. ... I have done my time and I’d like to get back to my friends. And believe it or not I do have some friends. I don’t think anyone could have honored this institution better. ... I’m sorry it happened.”
The media scrutiny in the hearing was obviously less intense than it was for the 1995 murder trial in which he was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole, and Ron Goldman, but the reality that he would soon be free again drew massive attention, including live coverage on multiple networks and platforms.