LOVELOCK, Nevada — After nearly nine years behind bars, “The Juice” is finally loose.
An emotional O.J. Simpson breathed a big sigh of relief on Thursday when a Nevada parole board unanimously granted his release from prison.
“Thank you,” a noticeably trim Simpson mouthed as he headed back to his cell at Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada, where he’s served more than eight years of a 33-year maximum sentence after being convicted of armed robbery in 2008.
The Hall of Famer — whose reputation was destroyed when he was accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her pal, Ron Goldman — will walk out of prison as early as Oct. 1.
Clad in a light blue denim shirt and dark jeans, Simpson earned a unanimous vote for parole by four parole commissioners who reached their decision after a 77-minute hearing in Carson City, Nevada.
“You organized this crime which two victims were robbed at gunpoint. It was a serious crime and there was no excuse for it. You deserved to be sent to prison,” one of the commissioners, Tony Corda, told him.
Corda noted, though, that Simpson has had no disciplinary record while locked up and was unlikely to commit future crimes.
“You have complied with the rules of the prison,” Corda said. “You have stable support and release plans.”
The former pro-football player — known as Inmate No. 1027820 — was convicted of leading a group of armed men into a Las Vegas casino hotel to rob two sports memorabilia dealers.
Simpson’s release wasn’t much of a surprise, as he’s been a model inmate during his stint in the clink, which is located less than 100 miles northeast of Reno.
His hearing began on a light note, with Connie Bisbee, one of the four parole commissioners, mistakenly saying, “We have that you recently turned 90 years old?”
The room burst into laughter and a stunned Simpson chuckled, exclaiming, “I feel like it!”
When asked what he was thinking when he led the armed crew into a cheap hotel room to steal a trove of sports memorabilia in September 2007, Simpson still insisted it was his to take.
“It’s kind of mind-boggling that they [the state of California] turned over to me my property that I’m in jail for trying to retrieve. It was my property — I would never try to steal from anybody,” he told the board during a rambling, unapologetic explanation for what happened that night.
“The property was yours?” one of the board members asked Simpson, who appeared via a closed-circuit video feed from the correctional center.
That’s when a tense-looking Simpson grew serious.
“It’s been ruled legally by the state of California that it was my property,” he answered forcefully.
Simpson insisted that he had no idea that two men who came to the Las Vegas hotel with him pulled a gun on one of the robbery victims, Bruce Fromong, until it was all over.
He also claimed that he’s “never” pulled a weapon on anyone, despite having been found guilty at a civil trial in the slashing murders of his ex-wife and Goldman.
“I’m in no danger to pull a gun on anybody. I’ve never been accused of it,” Simpson told the parole board. “Nobody has ever accused me of pulling any weapon on them.”
Board member Corda said Simpson’s account of the robbery, “differs a little from the official record.”
Simpson also faced heat from the board for not attending Alcoholic Anonymous, a vow he made during a previous parole hearing in 2013.
“My agenda was full,” he said.
Simpson admitted he had drinks the day of the robbery — but said that was only because he’d been celebrating a wedding beforehand.
“I had drinks that day but it was a wedding celebration. But I never had a substance problem at all,” he said.
The Juice added that he’s been dry for nearly nine years.
“And I haven’t missed it,” he said.
Simpson expressed some remorse at the hearing — but also moaned about missing out on 36 family birthdays and griped that he couldn’t attend his kids’ college graduations.
“I’ve come here, I’ve spent 9 years making no excuses about anything,” he said.
“I am sorry that things turned out the way they did. I had no intent to commit a crime.”
He insisted he’s become a “better Christian” in the slammer, after attending Baptist services.
Fromong testified in Simpson’s favor, calling him a “good man” who made a mistake. The other dealer who was robbed, Al Beardsley, died two years ago.
“I will make this clear to you: O.J. never held a gun on me,” Fromong told the board.
“There was a coward in that room, a man named [co-defendant Michael] McClinton, who came up, gangster-style, acting like a big man. He held the gun on me. Not O.J.”
Simpson became emotional, wiping a tear from his eye, when Fromong said he’d pick his pal up from prison if “he called me tomorrow.”
The Juice’s eldest daughter, Arnelle Simpson, also gave a statement, admitting that her father was “not the perfect man,” but insisting he’d been “humbled” by his time behind bars.
“So on behalf of my family, my brother, my sister, and aunt, and uncle, his friends, we just want him to come home,” she said. “We really do, we want him to come home, and I know in my heart that he is very humbled throughout the situation.”
“This has been hard, I’m going to be honest,” she continued.
“This has been really, truly hard. There is no right or wrong way to explain how to handle this, but we do know that — I know that — he is remorseful.”
It took the parole board less than a half hour to unanimously agree that Simpson should walk free. He wants to live in Florida after his release, and the Sunshine State will have to approve that request in the coming weeks.
In deciding to parole Simpson, the commissioners considered a variety of factors, including his age, disciplinary record, past criminal record and whether he posed a threat to society.
After the hearing, his lawyer, Malcolm LaVergne, said Fromong’s testimony was “very influential.”
“Mr. Simpson wanted to see Mr. Fromong, but that wasn’t allowed at this time,” he said. “But they’re friends, they were friends when this happened.”
He said Simpson was “very emotional” after the decision.
Credit: NY Post