O.J. Simpson sentenced to as much as 33 years
Saturday, December 6, 2008
LAS VEGAS -- A weary and beaten-looking O.J. Simpson was put away Friday for at least nine years -- and perhaps the rest of his life -- for an armed robbery in a hotel room, bringing a measure of satisfaction to those who believed the football star got away with murder more than a decade ago.
The 61-year-old Hall of Famer listened stone-faced, his wrists in shackles, as Judge Jackie Glass pronounced the sentence -- 33 years behind bars with eligibility for parole after less than a third of that.
Moments before, Simpson made a rambling, five-minute plea for leniency, simultaneously apologizing for the holdup as a foolish mistake and trying to justify his actions.
He choked back tears as he told her: "I didn't mean to steal anything from anybody ... I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all of it."
The judge said several times that her sentence in the Las Vegas case had nothing to do with Simpson's 1995 acquittal in the slaying of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
"I'm not here to try and cause any retribution or any payback for anything else," Glass said.
But Goldman's father, Fred Goldman, and sister, Kim, said they were delighted with the sentence.
"We are thrilled, and it's a bittersweet moment," Fred Goldman said. "It was satisfying seeing him in shackles like he belongs."
Simpson said he and five other men were simply trying to retrieve sports memorabilia and other mementos when he stormed a Las Vegas hotel room occupied by two dealers on Sept. 13, 2007. He insisted the items, which included his first wife's wedding ring, had been stolen from him.
But the judge emphasized that it was a violent confrontation in which at least one gun was drawn, and she said someone could have been shot. She said the evidence was overwhelming, with the planning, the confrontation itself and the aftermath all recorded on audio or videotape.
Glass, a no-nonsense judge known for tough sentences, imposed such a complex series of consecutive and concurrent sentences that even many lawyers watching the case were confused as to how much time Simpson got.
Simpson could serve up to 33 years, according to Elana Roberto, the judge's clerk.
In state prison, he will remain in his own cell protected from the general prison population because of his celebrity.
Simpson's lawyer suggested again that his client was a victim of payback for his acquittal in Los Angeles.
"It really made us all aware that despite our best efforts, it's very difficult to separate the California case from the Nevada case," attorney Yale Galanter said.
Some people who followed the case said justice had finally caught up with Simpson.
"You do things and you've got to expect karma to come around," said Greg Wheatley, 32, of Los Angeles.
Simpson was led away to prison immediately after the judge refused to permit him to go free on bail while he appeals.
Simpson's co-defendant and former golfing buddy, Clarence "C.J. Stewart, was sentenced to up to 27 years in prison but would be eligible for parole after 7 years, court officials said.
The judge could have sent both men to prison for the rest of their lives. The state parole agency recommended at least 18 years. The defense pushed for the minimum six years.
District Attorney David Roger revealed that Simpson and Stewart had both been offered plea agreements during the trial that would have resulted in lesser sentences. He would not provide details.
The prosecutor also said that because the crimes were considered violent felonies, Simpson and Stewart will not be eligible for good-behavior credits to lessen their sentences. He did not expect them to be immediately released when they do seek parole.
The Goldmans took a share of the credit for Simpson's fate, saying their relentless pursuit of his assets to satisfy a $33.5 million wrongful-death judgment "pushed him over the edge" and led him to commit the robbery to recover some of his valuable sports memorabilia.
Nicole Brown Simpson's sister, Denise Brown, released a statement from her family referring to the date her sister and Ron Goldman were killed.
"Allowing wealth, power and control to consume himself, he made a horrific choice on June 12, 1994, which has spiraled into where he is today," the statement said.
Simpson and Stewart were both brought to the courtroom in dark blue jail uniforms, their hands chained to their waists. Simpson, who had not been expected to speak, delivered his statement to the judge in a hoarse voice before a hushed courtroom.
Both men were convicted Oct. 3 of 12 criminal charges, including kidnapping and armed robbery.
"We were preparing Mr. Simpson for the worst," Galanter said. "We felt we did really well. Obviously, he's upset about the possibility of doing nine years."
Galanter planned to file a notice of appeal later Friday. He believed the Goldman family's presence in the courtroom was inappropriate.
Most of the 63 seats in the courtroom were taken by media, lawyers and family members of the defendants. Fifteen members of the public were also allowed.
After sentencing was over, the Goldmans left the courtroom and Kim threw her arms around her father and wept.
Simpson's sisters declined to comment, but Shirley Baker said on her way out: "It's not over."
Jurors who heard 13 days of testimony said after the verdict that they were convinced of Simpson's guilt because of audio recordings that were secretly made of the robbery at the Palace Station casino hotel.
The confrontation involved sports memorabilia brokers Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong. It was recorded by collectibles dealer Thomas Riccio, who was acting as middleman.
"Don't let nobody out of this room!" Simpson commands on the recordings, and he instructs other men to scoop up items.
On Tuesday, the judge is scheduled to sentence four former co-defendants who took plea deals and testified against Simpson and Stewart.
Michael McClinton, Charles Cashmore, Walter Alexander and Charles Ehrlich could receive probation or prison time. McClinton could get up to 11 years; the others face less.
Associated Press writers Ken Ritter and Kathleen Hennessey contributed to this report.