For the first time in nine years, O.J. Simpson is free. Although speculation raged about where the former football star would head next, a state official said Simpson would live in Las Vegas for now.
Simpson, 70, was released at 12:08 a.m. Sunday, just minutes after he became eligible for parole, from Lovelock Correctional Center in Northern Nevada, state prisons spokeswoman Brooke Keast said shortly after his release.
For most of Sunday, no one would say where Simpson was.
Simpson’s attorney said Sunday afternoon he thought the former football star, actor and pitchman, would land in Florida, where he has said he wants to go. But Florida’s attorney general has said vociferously that Simpson wasn’t welcome.
Then, Sunday night, State Parole and Probation Capt. Shawn Arruti told The Associated Press Simpson plans to live in a Las Vegas home “for the foreseeable future.”
Arruti said Simpson has an approved residential plan that doesn’t include a move to any other state, although that could change. He added that the house’s location isn’t disclosed for security and privacy reasons.
‘Come on out’
In a Nevada Corrections Department video clip of Simpson’s dead-of-night release posted on social media, an unseen prison worker says, “Come on out.” Simpson, clad in a denim jacket and ball cap, does.
“I don’t know where he’s going, I didn’t ask where he’s going,” Keast said Sunday afternoon. “I didn’t really want to know. It wasn’t my business.”
Keast said Simpson was picked up by an unidentified driver who didn’t reveal their destination.
“I didn’t get the sense they were going to an airport,” she said. “I got the sense that they were going to their final destination, wherever that is.”
The Associated Press reported Sunday morning that Simpson postrelease was in Nevada with his friend Tom Scotto, who lives in Naples, Florida, and has offered to put Simpson up. Scotto didn’t return Las Vegas Review-Journal messages seeking comment.
Early Sunday, a media circus was camped outside of the state’s Division of Parole and Probation Department building at 215 E. Bonanza Road, near downtown Las Vegas.
Local residents in the surrounding area told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Simpson stopped into the 7-Eleven, on the northeast corner of East Bonanza Road and Las Vegas Boulevard North, “first thing in the morning.”
The store clerk at the 7-Eleven, which is less than a block away from the state department building, would not comment on the possible Simpson visit.
“We’re being very tight-lipped on that,” the woman said.
An anonymous tipster told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Simpson, a golf lover, might be at the Red Rock Country Club. A person who answered the phone at the club said she couldn’t comment and hung up.
Sunshine State speculation
Simpson has said he wants to go to Florida, where his adult children live, to serve out his parole for a 2008 conviction on robbery and kidnapping. Simpson has served nine years in prison for a 2007 armed robbery involving two sports memorabilia dealers in a room at the Palace Station.
Simpson maintained he led five men into the confrontation to retrieve personal items and family mementos stolen following his acquittal in 1995 of murder charges in the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. He was found civilly liable for the slayings in 1997 and ordered to pay the victims’ families $33.5 million.
Meanwhile, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wrote Friday to Florida Corrections Department Secretary Julie Jones, asking the department to tell Nevada officials that the Sunshine State objects to having Simpson transfer there.
In her objection, Bondi said Simpson had failed to pay liability judgments of in the civil case and has shown “a manifest lack of contrition for these crimes.” She further said Simpson’s notoriety would place an extra burden on Florida authorities.
“If we have to take him, we’re going to have strict restrictions on him,” Bondi told MSNBC on Saturday. “He’s not going to be able to report by mail, he’s going to have to get alcohol treatment.”
Bondi raised her cellphone and said into the camera, “Folks, wherever he is, use your cellphones. If you see him drinking, if you see him misbehaving, you let us know. Because in Florida … we’re going to hold his feet to the fire and he’s going to have to comply with our laws.”
Simpson faces restrictions during five years of parole supervision, which could be reduced for good behavior. He’s barred from using illegal drugs and can drink alcohol only if the amount he drinks is below Nevada’s blood-alcohol limit for driving. He also is prohibited from associating with felons or anyone who Nevada officials prohibit him contacting. And he must tell the state where he’ll be living and when he changes his residence. The conditions apply if Simpson leaves Nevada.
On Saturday, Simpson’s lawyer Malcolm LaVergne rebuffed Bondi on Twitter, writing, “Florida AG quite possibly the stupidest person on the planet. Simpson can and will move to Florida. None of your business.”
Then, on Sunday, the Las Vegas lawyer said Bondi had nothing to do with the Florida Corrections Department and that Simpson and he took issue with her statements.
“Yes, he’s a convicted felon, yes, he’s on parole, but he said to me, ‘I’m not an indentured servant, and it’s been a long time in this country since people could tell black people where they can live.’ And I totally agree with that.
“You don’t tell black people where to live,” LaVergne added. “Who does she think she is telling him what to do?”
LaVergne said Simpson will “100 percent go to Florida” once the interstate transfer compact is accepted in Nevada. He said the paperwork is completed, “the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.”
LaVergne called Bondi’s letter incendiary and accused her of politicizing the issue “to get herself on television.”
“It’s a call to action letter,” he said. “It creates a political environment where it’s OK to dehumanize felons and treat them as less than human.”
The Florida Corrections Department on Thursday posted a statement online saying it had received neither a transfer request nor documentation on Simpson. The department didn’t return a phone call for comment on Sunday.
Keast, meanwhile, said the Nevada Corrections Department had considered many scenarios before releasing Simpson and didn’t decide until it happened.
She acknowledged to The Associated Press that prison officials had misled the media about the timing and location of Simpson’s release. They had said the release would come no sooner than Monday and possibly in Las Vegas, 450 miles south of Lovelock.
“It was a fluid situation; nothing was set in stone,” she said. “We could change our minds at any time.”
In a statement Sunday, Arruti said Division of Parole and Probation officials met with Simpson at the Lovelock prison before the release, eliminating Simpson’s need to report to a field office immediately afterward. Arruti wrote that division has followed this plan in the past amid strong safety or privacy concerns.
Given the media interest, including some from people the department couldn’t vet as journalists, Keast said it seemed wise to release Simpson quietly and without incident.
Keast said Simpson is now out of her department’s purview.
“As soon as we open the door and release someone into the care of another department, we’re done,” she said. “We hoping for (Simpson’s) successful reintegration into his community, wherever he ends up.”
Contact Matthew Crowley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @copyjockey on Twitter. Review-Journal writer Rio Lacanlale and The Associated Press contributed to this report.