<
>

Simpson gets prison sentence of at least nine years

12/6/2008

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 -- a maximum 33
years behind bars with eligibility for parole after less than a
third of that.

Moments before the sentence, which could likely translate to a maximum of 19 years served in prison, 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 Glass: "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 7½ 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.

Simpson's sentence included 15 years for two kidnapping counts with a maximum "enhancement" of six years because a gun was involved, plus a maximum of 12 more years on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

"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."

Simpson would be eligible for parole after nine years, which include six years on the kidnapping charges and three on the counts for assault with a deadly weapon.

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, Shirley Baker and Carmelita Durio, were also in the courtroom and declined to comment, but 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.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.