By SANDRA CHEREB
CARSON CITY, Nev. - O.J. Simpson won a small victory today in his bid for freedom as Nevada granted him parole on some of his 2008 convictions for kidnapping and armed robbery involving the holdup of two sports memorabilia dealers at a Las Vegas hotel room.
But the decision doesn't mean Simpson will be leaving prison anytime soon. The former NFL star was convicted on multiple charges and still faces at least four more years behind bars on sentences that were ordered to run consecutively.
The Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners released its decision in favor of Simpson's parole request today. Commissioners noted Simpson's "positive institutional record" and his participation in programs addressing "behavior that led to incarceration."
"We expected it," Patricia Palm, one of Simpson's current lawyers, told The Associated Press shortly after the order was issued. "There is no reason not to grant him parole. I'm glad they did what they should have done."
Palm said Simpson called from prison to let her know of the board's decision.
"He's very happy and grateful," she said.
The parole becomes effective Oct. 2. Then, Simpson will begin serving the minimum term on four concurrent sentences imposed for using a weapon during the 2007 robbery. He will have another parole hearing on those sentences in a year.
After that, he has two more consecutive terms for assault with a deadly weapon, said David Smith, spokesman for the board.
The board noted Simpson had no previous criminal convictions and still has consecutive sentences to serve. Simpson was tried for murder but acquitted in Los Angeles for the 1994 death of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Simpson appeared before a two-member Nevada parole panel last Thursday to plead for leniency. He expressed regret for his actions and said he's tried to be a model inmate while behind bars.
Lovelock Correctional Center officials say he's had no disciplinary actions against him.
Simpson was convicted in December 2008 on charges including kidnapping, robbery, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to nine to 33 years for the 2007 stick up of two memorabilia dealers, Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong.
Simpson still faces time for four weapon enhancement sentences, following by consecutive terms for two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
During last week's parole hearing, a graying Simpson told Parole Commissioner Susan Jackson and hearing officer Robin Bates, a retired Nevada prison warden, that he was sorry for his actions.
"I just wish I never went to that room," the 66-year-old Simpson said. He added he has made amends with Beardsley and Fromong.
While in prison, Simpson has earned pennies an hour working in the prison gym, keeping equipment sanitized, and umpiring and coaching games in the prison yard.
He said he made a promise to the warden when he arrived at Lovelock, 90 miles east of Reno, that he would be the "best person" they ever had at the facility. He added, "I think for the most part I've kept my word on that."
Simpson also said he's acted as jailhouse counselor of sorts to other inmates, some of whom are serving time for similar crimes.
But he said his deed was different.
"They were trying to steal other people's property," Simpson said of other prisoners. "They were trying to steal other people's money.
"My crime was trying to retrieve for my family my own property."
While Simpson remains behind bars, his best chance at freedom lies with Clark County District Judge Linda Marie Bell, who is considering whether he deserves a new trial.
During a May hearing, Palm and Ozzie Fumo, Simpson's current lawyers, argued that his trial attorney, Yale Galanter, botched Simpson's defense and had a conflict of interest in the case.
Bell has yet to issue a decision. If she rules in Simpson's favor, prosecutors will have to decide wither to retry him, offer a plea deal, or set him free with credit for time served.