By Frederick H. Lowe
When O.J. Simpson, the defendant in the so-called trial of the century, walked out of a Nevada prison Sunday morning, his release was expected to dominate the news cycle for two or three days or maybe even months.
But Simpson’s release didn’t make any headlines that morning because it was quickly eclipsed by Stephen Paddock, a millionaire gambler, who lept into annals of crime by committing the deadliest mass murder in the country’s history. Paddock shot to death 58 people and wounded 527 others who were attending an open-air country music concert on the Las Vegas Strip. Paddock also shot himself to death, bringing the total number of dead to 59.
Eight minutes after midnight, Simpson was released on parole from prison where he served nine years of a 30-year sentence. By the time Simpson walked out of prison, word was leaking out about Paddock’s mass murder, already the murder of the century.
Just prior to his release, the 70-year-old Simpson sat at a wooden prison desk signing documents. A bottle of soda was nearby.
A woman’s voice said to Simpson, the NFL Hall of Fame running back for the Buffalo Bills and the San Francisco 49ers, who was wearing a blue dungaree jacket, pants and baseball cap and white sneakers, “come on out!”
Simpson said “Ok,” and walked toward the entrance toward photographers’ flashing cameras, reporters with tape recorders and reporters with note pads.
Simpson lowered his head and walked past two male prison employees. One said something to him that was inaudible. Simpson acknowledged what the guard said, walked into the Nevada night and disappeared for parts unknown.
He had been serving time for armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and 10 other charges over a 2007 confrontation at a Las Vegas hotel. Although he was acquitted in the 1995 stabbing deaths of his estranged wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, many people believe he committed the double murder in what the media called the trial of the century.
Simpson wants to move to Florida where he has family and friends but the state’s attorney general Pam Biondi said she did not want him there although there is nothing she can do to stop him from living there.
“Our state should not become a country club for this convicted criminal,” Biondi wrote in a letter to the Florida Department of corrections. Malcolm Lavergne, Simpson’s attorney, called Biondi “the stupidest person on the planet” for her comments since she cannot restrict him from moving to Florida. Lavergne said Simpson would live in Nevada until he decides to move to Florida.
Simpson graduated from the University of Southern California, where he became famous as a running back. The school doesn’t want him on the campus or involved in any school activities. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1968 after setting an NCAA single-season record with 1,880 rushing yards.
While playing for the Buffalo Bills, Simpson became the first NFL player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
The parole board approved him for early release during a hearing in July. Simpson will remain on probation for the next five years.