Former football star O.J. Simpson was released from a Nevada prison early Sunday after serving nine years for a 2007 armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas.
The onetime football legend, whose 1995 murder trial in Los Angeles inspired years of debate over race and justice, was paroled only minutes after he first became eligible for release, a Nevada prison official confirmed.
Simpson left the Lovelock Correctional Center northeast of Reno at 12:08 a.m. in the company of an unidentified driver, said Brooke Keast, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Corrections.
“He is out,” Keast said.
She said prison officials had sought to conduct the release quietly, with as little public and media attention as possible.
“It was incident free, nobody followed; it was exactly what we’d hoped we could do for public safety,” Keast said. “It was a public safety concern — to make it quiet, under the radar and incident free.”
Keast said she had no information on Simpson’s intended destination.
“I do not know where he’s going. I didn’t want to know, to be honest,” she said.
Simpson’s attorney, Malcolm LaVergne, interviewed before his client’s release, did not reveal any plans, but said Simpson was excited to be leaving prison.
“I can tell from his voice on the phone last night that he’s looking forward to freedom and hugging his family on the outside,” LaVergne said.
In an email Sunday, he said all other information about Simpson’s first hours of freedom would be “confidential until further notice.”
Speculation had swirled over when Simpson would be turned loose after the Nevada Parole Board granted him parole in July for serving a portion of his 33-year sentence and getting credit for good behavior and taking classes in prison.
But with Simpson, controversy and attention seem to chase him wherever he goes — dating back to 1994 when he was arrested and charged with murder in the deaths of his estranged wife Nicole Brown and of her friend Ron Goldman in Los Angeles.
His trial was called “the Trial of the Century” and garnered worldwide attention after his arrest, which began with a slow-speed pursuit by police while a friend drove him in a white Ford Bronco.
He was eventually acquitted of the murder charges in 1995, his trial creating a circus-like atmosphere outside the Los Angeles County Criminal Courts Building and spawning a seemingly endless public debate over whether he had gotten away with murder.
In 1997, a civil jury ruled in a wrongful death suit that Simpson was responsible for the deaths and awarded the Goldman family $33.5 million in damages, but little of the award was ever collected.
Simpson didn’t help quash the speculation, authoring a controversial book in 2007 called “If I Did It.” The proceeds from that book, however, were required to go to the victims’ families, who had won a multimillion-dollar civil suit against Simpson.
David Cook, who represents the Goldmans, said the civil judgment against Simpson remains in effect for another eight years before it must be renewed. He said that the amount Simpson owes now has ballooned to $70 million and that if he tries to cash in on his fame, they’ll be ready.
“From a purely mercantile point of view, the fact that he’s out resuscitates the judgment — brings it back to life,” Cook said. “Of course he can sit there and retire, playing golf or eating his seafood and steak and listening to his iPhone — he can do that — but if he seeks to monetize his name, we’re going to grab it.”
The Goldman family had remained outspoken about their belief that Simpson killed Ron Goldman, and sister Kim Goldman wrote a book in 2015 called “Can’t Forgive” that laid out the anger and pain she felt over the slaying of her brother.
The Goldmans issued a statement Sunday afternoon.
“Now that Simpson has been released from prison, we the Goldman family will continue our quest in securing the only form of justice for Ron we have available; the rights to our civil court case judgment where Simpson was found to have willfully and wrongfully caused the deaths of Ron and Nicole,” the statement said. “We anticipate that the Nevada Board of Parole will uphold the conditions of Simpson’s parole and not provide leniency.”
The parole board in Nevada, however, was not allowed to consider the events of 1994 in their deliberations and instead considered the facts around the case in Nevada in 2007, when Simpson was accused of leading a group of men into a Las Vegas hotel and casino to steal sports memorabilia at gunpoint.
The board had to determine whether, based on that case, he was not a threat to society, and had served his time in prison without incident.
“I’ve done my time,” Simpson told the board in July. “I’ve done it as well and as respectfully as I think anyone can.”
At his hearing, he suggested he’d like to go to Florida, and his attorney has also said that was where Simpson had hoped to locate.
“I can easily stay in Nevada, but I don’t think you guys want me here,” Simpson told the board, which elicited some laughter.
But officials with the Florida Department of Corrections said they had not received any paperwork regarding Simpson being transferred to them as of Friday, and Florida Atty. Gen. Pam Bondi said she didn’t want him in the state.
Bondi wrote a letter Friday urging the state Department of Corrections to reject Simpson’s request to live in Florida.
“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,” she wrote. “The specter of his residing in comfort in Florida should not be an option. Numerous law enforcement officials in Florida agree with this position. Our state should not become a country club for this convicted criminal.”
Simpson became eligible for release on Oct. 1.
3:22 p.m.: This article was updated with Goldman family statement.
1:30 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details of the release.
1:05 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Goldman lawyer, publicist.
This article was originally published at 12:50 a.m.