O.J. Simpson, a former National Football League star, was released from a Nevada state prison on parole early Sunday after nine years of serving time for charges related to an armed robbery in 2007.
Simpson, 70, left Lovelock Correctional Center at 12:08 a.m. local time, in a late-night release meant to avoid media attention for the man whose murder trial and acquittal in 1995 drew international controversy. He was arrested in 2007 after he and two armed associates barged into a hotel room in Las Vegas and demanded sports memorabilia, later telling a Nevada jury that he was reclaiming family mementos.
He was originally sentenced to nine to 33 years for 12 convictions, having served the minimum sentence. The Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners at a hearing in July voted to grant Simpson parole Oct. 1, and that he would be on parole for up to five years.
Brooke Keast, a Nevada Department of Corrections spokesperson, told the Associated Press she did not know where Simpson was going, though his lawyer said Simpson’s attorney has said he would like to live in Florida.
In 1994, Simpson, a famous running back at the time, was charged with murder after his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were found dead outside her home in Los Angeles.
After police asked Simpson to surrender, he led them on a highway chase in a white Ford Bronco as about 95 million Americans, or 67 percent of all households, watched. It was one of the most-viewed events in television history and helped set the tone for what would become a sensationalized trial.
The trial became a flashpoint for racial tension in the U.S., in a decade where the police beating of black motorist Rodney King, and the acquittal of the four officers involved, had already brought an uprising that began among black communities in Los Angeles. Public opinion surrounding the trial was often divided among racial lines — one Washington Post-ABC News poll in 1994 found that 22 percent of black respondents thought Simpson was guilty as opposed to 63 percent of white respondents.
When a 12-person jury at the Los Angeles Superior Court found Simpson not guilty after a nearly nine-month trial, The New York Times noted that their critics “maintained that they had been manipulated by a cynical defense team that talked more about the racism of the Los Angeles police than about the guilt or innocence of their client.”
A civil trial found him liable for the deaths in 1997 and he was ordered to pay the victims’ families $25 million.