By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Hall-of-fame football player and movie actor O.J. Simpson stands a good chance of being released on parole from a Nevada prison later this year, the chief deputy public defender of Clark County said Tuesday on Nevada Newsmakers.
Simpson’s record of good behavior at the Lovelock Correctional Center and advanced age may help him when he goes before the parole board later this year, said Steven Yeager. He is the chief deputy public defender in the county where Simpson was arrested in 2007 on kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy charges.
“I think he probably has a pretty good chance of being released,” Yeager said while taping Nevada Newsmakers Tuesday.
“Typically, when the parole board is making that determination, they are looking at the inmate’s history in the institution, the disciplinary history,” Yeager said. “They also look at the age of the inmate and one of the things we always talk about in the criminal justice system is the older you get, the less likely you are to continue committing crimes.”
Simpson’s parole-board date is expected to be set next month by the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners. Yeager is also an assemblyman from Las Vegas and the chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Simpson, now 70, is serving a 9-to-33 year sentence at Lovelock, about 90 miles north of Reno.
“Essentially, most people age out of the criminal justice system,” Yeager said. “So I would think in those two factors (age, good behavior), he probably stands a pretty good chance of being released.
“All that being said, I’ve certainly been wrong before about what the parole board will do on a particular case. So I will be as interested as you to see what their ultimate decision is,” Yeager added on Nevada Newsmakers.
Yeager said fallout from Simpson’s 1994 criminal trial — where he was acquitted of murder in the deaths of his wife, Nicole Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman — could seep into a decision to let him leave prison. It was the most publicized trail of the century, inspiring TV dramas and documentaries.
Simpson was later found liable for the deaths of his wife and Goldman in a civil trial.
“I certainly think politics and public perception can play into whether an inmate gets released,” Yeager said. “I think in the ideal world, that would not be the case and we would look (only) at the crime charge.
“But certainly, that (politics and public perception) is always a consideration that comes in to play,” Yeager said. “Probably what makes that a little more complicated here is the fact that he (Simpson) was, of course, found not guilty of those crimes. But there is a widely-held belief in our country that he did commit those crimes.
“Now I know the parole board is not supposed to look at that in terms of a prior conviction, but I think we would be somewhat dishonest if we didn’t say that would be a calculus,” Yeager said.
If Simpson is granted parole, he won’t be released until October, according to a report by Marcella Carona in the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Simpson’s current prison term stems from his conviction for his part in a 2007 robbery at the Palace Station Hotel in Las Vegas when Simpson said he was only trying to retrieve his own football memorabilia from two sports-collectable dealers.
Simpson could face either a three-person or seven-person board at his parole hearing, Yeager said.
“I’m not sure if he will have the whole board,” Yeager said. “Sometimes, they will do panels. I could be wrong but I believe they have three commissioners. And it is two-out-of-three (necessary to decide in Simpson’s favor). Or they could have the whole board consider it and that would be a majority vote. I am just not sure in his particular case, if they will do a panel approach or the entire parole board itself.”
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