A few minutes after midnight on October 1,authorities at Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Center released O.J. Simpson on parole after the former football great had served nine years of a 33-year sentence for criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, robbery, and using a deadly weapon.
Simpson, who faces several years of parole/probation restrictions, says he’d like to move back to Florida, where he lived before his conviction. Florida’s attorney general, Pam Bondi, who never misses an opportunity to grandstand, says that “should not be an option.” “Our state,” she whines, “should not become a country club for this convicted criminal.”
Bondi, of course, is very different from Simpson, and not just in skin tone or sex. He was convicted of something that wouldn’t be considered a crime in any sane society. She hasn’t even been charged with the real crime she undeniably committed (soliciting and accepting a bribe, er, “campaign contribution,” from the Trump Foundation for keeping Florida out of a multi-state fraud lawsuit against Trump University).
Yes, O.J. Simpson is a “convicted criminal.” But what was he convicted of? Demanding the return of stolen property while someone with a gun was present. He claimed not to know that two of the people accompanying him were armed, but even if he knew, let me repeat the two key words, “stolen property.”
In the normal course of things, Simpson would likely have filed a criminal complaint or a civil suit to retrieve the property. Why didn’t he?
Well, more than a decade before, Los Angeles police had unsuccessfully attempted to frame him for the murder of his ex-wife and a friend. No, I’m not saying he didn’t do it, but LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman and others artificially created a case that fell apart under scrutiny instead of objectively investigating the crime. I recommend J. Neil Schulman’s excellent The Frame of the Century? for a more skeptical look at the case.
Then, after his acquittal, the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman used the civil court system to rob Simpson of a prospective $33.5 million in damages for the same crime a jury had acquitted him of committing.
Why on Earth would anyone expect O.J. Simpson to trust the police, or the civil court system, to have his back on a matter of stolen property? If he wanted it back, he had to get it himself … and when he did, the criminal justice system came down on him like a ton of bricks yet again, levying a sentence that was clearly enhanced by a full order of magnitude as “payback” for the crime he’d been acquitted of.
Love him or hate him, it’s clear that OJ Simpson has paid the price, and then some, for the acts he’s actually been proven to have committed. It’s time for the Goldman and Simpson families, Pam Bondi, and everyone else, to stop using a 70-year-old man as a public punching bag and let him live out the remainder of his life in peace rather than in penury.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.