O.J. Simpson Granted Parole; Could Soon Leave Prison
One of the most controversial and polarizing figures in the history of the NFL has been granted parole and could soon be released from his Nevada prison. Orenthal James Simpson, better known as O.J, and “The Juice,” is a former NFL star who was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for his role in a bizarre armed robbery of sports memorabilia in Las Vegas. After serving nine years of his prison term, his request for parole was granted and a release was provisionally approved for October 2017; depending on prison overcrowding conditions and other circumstances, O.J. Simpson could be freed before his official release date.
As a running back, O.J. Simpson set impressive records in terms of rushing yards with the Buffalo Bills from 1969 to 1977. Simpson was able to translate his NFL popularity into an acting and broadcasting career that was brought to a screeching halt when he was charged with the murder of his late wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her alleged lover Ron Goldman. The O.J. Simpson murder case became a sordid reality television show that encompassed several societal elements that shaped American society in the mid-1990s. The televised trial featured a stellar criminal defense team against bumbling prosecutors that seemed to be more concerned about how good they looked before the cameras. Simpson was not the only one on trial: celebrity fixation and the deep racial divide of the United States were topics of heated debate beyond the courtroom. The surprising acquittal of Simpson may not have been justice served, but it was a reminder that zealous prosecution on the basis of racial and socioeconomic discord could derail an American trial.
A wrongful death lawsuit filed against Simpson in the aftermath of his acquittal would seal his fate as he was ordered to pay more than $30 million to the relatives of the late Nicole Brown. Simpson’s fortune was wiped out and turmoil would set upon his life years later in Miami, when the FBI arrested him on possession of MDMA, also known as ecstasy, and suspicion of money laundering. He was later convicted of pirating satellite television signals. By the time Simpson got involved in the Las Vegas robbery to steal his own sports memorabilia, the former NFL star and Hollywood actor had been broke and insolvent for a few years. During his imprisonment, Simpson was a model inmate who served as the manager of a prison softball league with more than a dozen teams. He took personal computing classes for the purpose of staying in touch with his four children, and he has been very apologetic to the victims of his robbery, one of which who happens to be a close friend.
In 2016, the daring miniseries “O.J.: Made in America” revisited the painful murder trial and all the racial and socioeconomic zeitgeist of Southern California in the 1990s. Simpson’s parole and eventual release will likely reopen some of those wounds more than 20 years later, but it is up to Americans to show what they have positively learned from that episode.