O.J. Simpson won his bid Thursday for an early release
from prison after a Nevada parole board unanimously granted the request.
He could be out from behind bars as soon as Oct. 1 — but that doesn't mean he's walking out a free man.
"Parole is but one step out of the prison gate," said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School in Los Angeles professor and longtime Simpson case commentator.
The Hall of Fame football star, now 70 and once celebrated for his speed on the field, has been serving nearly nine years at a medium-security lockup northeast of Reno. He was convicted in 2008 for an armed heist
at a Las Vegas hotel in which he and a group of men tried to recover sports memorabilia — an incident that earned him his minimum nine- to 33-year prison sentence.
While the case ushered Simpson back into the spotlight, it was the sensational 1995 trial and acquittal
for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, that ensured an enduring life of notoriety.
How long must Simpson remain on parole?
His parole is due to expire Sept. 29, 2022, which means he must spend about five years living under the terms of his release. Why not longer? The parole board explained during Simpson's hearing that good behavior combined with other factors means he's eligible for up to a 50 percent reduction in his sentence under state rules.
What will happen to Simpson upon his release?
Under the standard conditions for parole, Simpson must go directly to the program approved by the Division of Parole and Probation and report to a supervising officer, according to the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners
. He would have to submit written monthly reports to that officer until his parole ends.
What if he wants to move out of state?
Simpson told the parole board that he'd like to go back to Florida, where he purchased a Miami home in 2000 and raised his children.
"I can easily stay in Nevada, but I don't think you guys want me here," Simpson said with a chuckle Thursday.
Levenson told NBC News that parole boards will take into account where one's support system is located when deciding where someone can live.
But the state of Florida will also need to determine whether Simpson is eligible to serve the remainder of his parole there. If so, Simpson will be required to abide by the conditions of his release, which includes needing written permission from a supervising officer before leaving the state where he resides.
The Miami home Simpson once owned was eventually foreclosed on in 2012, and last week it was listed for nearly $1.3 million on the market, the Miami Herald
What won't he be allowed to do?
The Nevada parole board bars parolees from drinking alcohol and requires they submit to random screenings. They also can't use drugs, unless they're legally prescribed, and are unable to possess weapons.
In addition, the parole board said, Simpson will be subject to searches by his parole officer.
Simpson told the parole board that he has no problem refraining from alcohol: "I haven't drinked [sic] in nine years and I haven't missed it."
What if he violates his parole?
If he is found to breach any of the terms of his release, his parole officer can arrest him and bring him back to prison. If he lives outside of Nevada, he would be extradited and required to go before the Nevada parole board for a violation hearing.
"We do not look kindly upon parole violations," parole board chairman Connie Bisbee warned Simpson before granting his parole.
How will he be able to live financially?
While parolees are generally encouraged to find a full-time job after they're released, for Simpson — now retired at age 70 — it's more complicated.
In 1997, Simpson was found liable in civil court for the deaths of his ex-wife and Goldman, and was ordered to pay $33.5 million to their surviving family members. While nothing could stop Simpson from trying to capitalize on his fame, any wages he earns would be garnished to pay off whatever he still owes.
Goldman's sister, Kim Goldman, told CNBC
in 2014 that her family received just 1 percent of that judgment.
"We were met with obstacle after obstacle after obstacle, partly because the killer worked really hard to hide all of his assets," she said, referring to Simpson.
She added that the biggest asset was Simpson's 2007 book, "If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer." The book and the rights to it were awarded to the Goldmans by a bankruptcy court in Florida, and as owners of the material, the proceeds from it are funneled back to them to pay down the civil case judgment they're owed.
One thing the family can't touch, however, is Simpson's NFL pension, which is estimated at $25,000 per month, according to Sports Illustrated
. The actor and pitchman also reportedly receives money from a private pension and the Screen Actors Guild.
What kind of interactions can he have?
As a celebrity figure, the parole board recognized that he will be inundated by the public. Simpson said it shouldn't be a factor in his release.
"Well, I've been recognized since I was 19 years old," he said, adding, "Rarely have I ever had any person give me any negative stuff in the street ... and I don't foresee any problem dealing with the public now at all."
Can he access social media?
It will be different world — when it comes to social media — when Simpson gets out. The former football star said he elected to complete a computer course during his time in prison. After his release, Simpson would have the right go online and engage on platforms like Twitter or Facebook.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that prohibiting anyone released from prison from doing so would violate their First Amendment rights.
"Even convicted criminals — and in some instances, especially convicted criminals — might receive legitimate benefits from these means for access to the world of ideas, in particular if they seek to reform and to pursue lawful and rewarding lives," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.