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Simpson pleads for leniency on sentence

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – O.J. Simpson went before a parole board Thursday and pleaded for leniency on his armed robbery and kidnapping sentence as he expressed regret for his actions and described being an upstanding inmate who earns pennies an hour keeping gym equipment sanitized and umpiring and coaching games in the prison yard.

Simpson also said he has become a counselor of sorts to fellow inmates doing time for similar crimes and noted that he has made amends with his victims in a botched heist of memorabilia in a hotel room in Las Vegas in 2007.

“I just wish I never went to that room,” the 66-year-old Simpson said during a 15-minute appearance.

Parole officials did not immediately rule on his request, which Simpson made remotely from a video conference room the Lovelock Correction Center. But their decision will have little impact on his overall sentence because he is only eligible for parole on five sentences ordered to run concurrently – two counts each of kidnapping and robbery, and one count of burglary with a deadly weapon.

As a result, even if the Nevada Parole Board ruled in his favor, he would then begin serving sentences attached to other charges and spend at least another 4 years in prison. He still has four weapon enhancement sentences to serve, followed by consecutive terms for two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Parole from those sentences would be considered at future hearings.

His best chance for freedom lies with a pending decision by a Las Vegas judge on whether to grant him a new trial based on claims that his trial lawyer botched his defense and had a conflict of interest in the case. Clark County District Judge Linda Marie Bell held a weeklong hearing in May on the issue that featured testimony from Simpson.

At the parole hearing, Simpson provided a glimpse of his time in prison since he was sentenced to nine to 33 years behind bars. He said he has served as a counselor of sorts to other inmates who come to him with their issues. But he said he shouldn’t be compared with other inmates.

“The difference between all of their crimes and mine is, they were trying to steal other people’s property,” a graying Simpson said. “They were trying to steal other people’s money.

“My crime was trying to retrieve for my family my own property,” he said, mentioning how he has missed his children, graduations and his sister’s funeral. “Make no mistake, I would give it all back to these guys. They can have it all to get these five years of my life back.”

He also told the two-member parole panel that he has spoken at length with Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong – the two dealers targeted in the holdup. He acknowledged that he was “not as civil as I should have been” while trying to regain the property.

“I knew both of these guys who had my stuff,” Simpson said. “I am sorry for what has happened. ... I’ve apologized. They’ve apologized.”

He was the only person to speak on his behalf. No victims spoke.

Parole Commissioner Susan Jackson and hearing representative Robin Bates were expected to make a recommendation to the full parole board later Thursday, and a final decision is expected next week. Jackson noted that Simpson has had no disciplinary actions during his incarceration and was deemed a “low risk” for repeat offenses.

During the court hearing in May on Simpson’s motion for a new trial, his current lawyers, Patricia Palm and Ozzie Fumo, presented evidence and questioned witnesses, including trial lawyer Yale Galanter, about whether he knew in advance about the September 2007 plan for Simpson and several other men to confront the memorabilia dealers.

Simpson argues that he was trying to retrieve items stolen from him after his 1995 “trial of the century” in Los Angeles when he was acquitted of murder in the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife and her friend.

But Simpson also acknowledged when he was questioned by prosecutor H. Leon Simon that other items were taken, including Beardsley’s hat and sunglasses, Fromong’s cellphone, lithographs featuring football star Joe Montana, and autographed Pete Rose and Duke Snider baseballs.

Bell hasn’t indicated when she plans to issue her decision, but told a KSNV-TV interviewer for a segment aired this week that she still had “some writing to do.”

___

Associated Press writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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