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tv   Nightline  ABC  July 21, 2017 12:37am-1:07am EDT

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where i licked dirt when the dough dried and the pride died ♪ this is a special edition of "nightline." "o.j. simpson: parole granted." tonight, inside the room where o.j. simpson won his freedom today. >> mr. simpson, i do vote to grant parole when eligible. >> thank you. >> after almost nine years in prison for that las vegas robbery and kidnapping. >> i am sorry. >> his daughter's emotional plea. >> he's like my best friend and my rock. >> now what comes next for o.j. why he could collect hundreds of thousands of dollars upon his release. plus, inside the crime. details of the theft that put o.j. behind bars from some of his accomplices. >> he leaned in a little closer and he said, "by the way, can you get some heat?" >> meaning a gun? >> meaning a gun. i said [ bleep ] o.j., i'm not
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going to prison. because i know he wouldn't go for me. >> reporter: their stories, their regrets, and their wishes for the soon to be free o.j. simpson. this special edition of "nightline" will be right back.
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this is a special edition of "nightline." "o.j. simpson: parole granted." good evening. one of the most controversial figures in american life is once
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again heading toward freedom. o.j. simpson was granted parole today after spending nearly nine years in prison for a botched robbery, an attempt he says to reclaim sports memorabilia that was rightfully his. now with his release coming as soon as october abc's debora roberts speaks to some of the other men involved in that crime. >> reporter: o.j. simpson about to become a free man. capturing the nation's attention once again. >> tonight, o.j. simpson -- >> will be a free man. >> reporter: granted parole after serving nearly nine years behind bars for kidnapping and robbery. an emotional sigh from the former football great. >> thank you. >> reporter: making a lengthy plea. >> what were you thinking? >> i thought i was glad to get my stuff back. but it wasn't worth it. i'm sorry. >> reporter: the 70-year-old inmate, seen for the first time in four years. he seemed to relitigate the ten-year-old crime with a flash of anger. >> so you believe that the property was yours? >> it's been ruled legally by the state of california that it
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was my property, and they'd given it to me. >> reporter: but at other times remorseful. >> i haven't made any excuses in the nine years that i've been here, and i'm not trying to make an excuse now. they were there because of me. >> reporter: he was convicted in 2008. >> guilty count 2 -- >> reporter: and has been serving a 9 to 33-year sentence here at lovelock correctional facility in nevada. >> i've done my time. you know, i've done it as well and as respectfully as i think anybody can. >> no one really knows how much we have been through. >> reporter: his oldest da eses daughter, arnell, speaking on behalf of the family. >> he's like my best friend and my rock. >> to have that human element of someone who really seemed to be speaking from the heart definitely helped. but i think much of this for o.j. simpson was for the court of public opinion. >> reporter: then the first tears from simpson as one of his victims, bruce fromong, made a plea on his behalf. >> this is a good man. he made a mistake. and if he called me tomorrow and said bruce, i'm getting out,
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will you pick me up, juice, i'll be here tomorrow. i mean that. >> reporter: simpson, tears of gratitude. >> i think the parole commissioners had probably made their decision before he walked in the door. so he would have had to have done something really bad to change those opinions. >> reporter: simpson never far from the limelight. his life mired in controversy. forever remembered for the trial of the century. >> you must acquit. >> not guilty of the crime of murder. >> reporter: accused, then acquitted of murdering ex-wife nicole brown simpson and her friend ron goldman. simpson's pending release brought fresh pain to the family of ron goldman, who spoke out on "good morning america." >> what's troubling to me is not only him but the whole system gives second chances to violent felons or for that matter anyone in jail. ron doesn't get a second chance. >> reporter: simpson was ordered to pay the goldman and brown families $33.5 million after
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being found liable in the civil trial. the goldmans say they received less than 1% of that. simpson's always denied any involvement in those deaths. o.j. simpson will likely be released in october and may move back to florida to be near his chernld. if granted corrections officials say he will be assigned to a probation officer and will be supervised in accordance with the conditions of his parole. simpson still earns an nfl pension, estimated at $25,000 a month. but it's protected under federal law. >> the goldmans cannot get access to it. it is simply not an asset that they can seize. >> reporter: looking back on what sent him to prison, simpson says it was a series of unfortunate events. the perfect storm. september 13th, 2007. o.j. simpson is in vegas for the wedding of pal tom scotto. >> he was more excited for me to get married than i was.
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>> reporter: and he's gotten a tip from sports collector tom riccio that some of his lost and treasured memorabilia will also be in las vegas, items his former agent allegedly took in lieu of payment. poolside at the palms resort simpson strategizes a play to score back his stuff. >> and he says to me i need someone that i can trust to go up there or go and see what it is. >> reporter: charlie ehrlich, a miami strip club promoter, agrees to pose as a buyer. >> so i said o.j., listen, for you i'm going to do this. >> reporter: ehrlich leaves, and simpson's former golfing buddy walter alexander joins in too. >> riccio left, and then all of a sudden the conversation got serious. >> reporter: what was the plan? what did o.j. say he wanted to do? >> when he approached me about it, he was like, hey, man, will you watch my back? so i said yes. and then after i said yes he leaned in a little closer and he said, "by the way, can you get some heat?" >> meaning a gun? >> meaning a gun.
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and when he said that, i hesitated. >> reporter: while he hesitates, someone else speaks up. michael mcclinton, a friend from the los angeles nightclub scene. and at the time he ran a security company and had a concealed carry permit. >> he asked me, would you go with me to be my security? sure, i'll go with you. little did i know that it was going to turn into what it did. >> after he did that i look at o.j. and i say, so o.j., what if they call the police? and he looked at me and he used a four-letter word that starts with f and ends with k the police. what are they going to do, take me to jail for taking my own stuff? >> reporter: the stage is set. 6:30 p.m. simpson's recruited three people. riccio the go-xen heads north to the palace station hotel to link with the memorabilia dealers. they're captured on the hotel security cameras bringing in the haul. >> we took the memorabilia down to the room, set it all up for this supposed buyer that was coming in. >> reporter: on the way to the
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palace simpson recruits two more buddies including c.j. stewart. >> he gets in the car and he says what? >> man, i've got 15 minutes to get there and you don't even have to get out of the vehicle. just please don't leave me there. >> reporter: ehrlich and another pretend buyer head in first. >> two seconds later i look down the hallway, i see o.j., this guy clarence stewart who i met an hour and a half ago, these two black guys who look like they're right out of "miami vice." slicked back here, versace glasses, suits. i go who the [ bleep ] are these guys? excuse my french. and i said oh, boy, this is a typical o.j. move, i'm saying to myself. >> reporter: for the first time since that night mcclinton walks back into the palace station hotel. it's undergoing significant renovation. >> who's sort of in charge of the plan? >> mr. simpson is in charge. >> what does he say? >> he said we're going to wait for some guys. >> reporter: the group now all together. >> no one knew anybody. it was like going to the gunfight at the o.k. corral. >> reporter: no introductions as they head into room 1203.
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>> we all barged into the room. the guys in the room were shocked to see mr. simpson. >> i've seen this guy getting ready to go under the mattress. first thing that went through my mind, it was a firearm. next thing, simpson, you could hear his voice coming in. >> you think you can steal my [ bleep ]? don't let nobody out of here. >> reporter: this is actual audio of simpson from inside that room, secretly recorded by riccio. it would later be critical evidence in the courtroom. >> you [ bleep ]. you think you can steal my [ bleep ]. >> it was stated i pointed the gun. i never pointed that gun at anybody. >> i did take my gun out. for one like split second. and when i realized the room was safe, i just put it back in. the minute i pulled the gun out i'm like, man, this is a robbery. you know, this is going to be on national news. you are going to jail for this. >> reporter: nine hulking men crammed into a small room. >> so o.j. says pack up all this stuff and let's get out of here. >> reporter: they grab
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everything in sight and stuff them into pillow cases from the bed. >> i actually went and snatched the cord of the phone out of the wall, and i took bruce's cell phone. >> why did you take his cell phone? >> because i didn't want him to call the police. >> so you leave the room. >> yes. >> what are you thinking at that point? >> that we just did a robbery. >> reporter: but simpson isn't fazed as they head back to the palms hotel. unbeknownst to him, the memorabilia dealer alfred beardsley finds a phone and calls the cops. >> 911 emergency. >> yeah, we were just robbed at gunpoint by o.j. simpson. can you send the police here, please? >> where are you? >> palace station haute until las vegas. we were just robbed by o.j. simpson and four other black men at gunpoint. >> reporter: . >> i need to know who we're looking for. four black men and o.j. simpson is not enough. i need to know what they're wearing. >> reporter: frustrated by that 911 call the dealers try reporting simpson in the lobby as seen here on the hotel surveillance cameras. but still no one believes them. later back at the palms simpson
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and crew continue their prewedding celebrations over dinner at the little buddha restaurant. >> o.j. was there laughing. he just thought it was the funniest thing. [ laughter ] >> reporter: he has no idea michael mcclinton is secretly recording this conversation. >> it was a strong arm robbery. they came in with guns. >> the last thing i want is at 4:00 them [ bleep ] coming in here -- >> reporter: all that time o.j. is thinking no big deal, you're not -- >> o.j. is drunk. he just kept saying no guns, just say there wasn't guns. >> reporter: the next day police find and question simpson. but he's not arrested and goes on to be best man at tom scotto's wedding. >> the wedding day went perfect. o.j. was in great spirits. >> reporter: but those high spirits would soon fall. >> boom. right after the wedding they pick him up, they lock him up. >> reporter: one by one simpson and his accomplices are arrested, making national headlines. >> o.j. simpson is under arrest
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in las vegas. >> in connection with an alleged armed robbery. >> reporter: police nab alexander at the airport. searching his bag for that suit he was wearing in the surveillance tape. >> when you go to the casino, you're filmed from the moment you go in the door. >> did it not occur to you all that there's a camera here, there's cameras here, cameras -- there's cameras all over this place. >> that wasn't on my mind, and i'm sure it wasn't on the other guys' mind either. >> reporter: when we come back, simpson's stiff sentence in nevada. >> conspiracy to commit kidnapping, a felony offense. >> reporter: and advice for o.j. from his accomplices. how they think he should live his life once free. >> stay out of trouble. >> reporter: stay with us. i have spent years taking over-the-counter products for my belly pain and constipation. i've had it up to here! it's been month after month of fiber. weeks taking probiotics! days and nights of laxatives, only to have my symptoms return. (vo) if you've had enough, tell your doctor what you've tried and how long you've been at it. linzess works differently from laxatives.
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this special edition of "nightline" continues. >> reporter: at his parole hearing today, o.j. simpson once again recounting the events that brought him here. >> all i want is my property. i think there's a tape of it. you hear me on at least three or four occasions say "i just want my property." >> reporter: but in the end regretting his choices. >> i spent nine years making no excuses about anything. i am sorry that things turned out the way they did. >> reporter: not unlike his words spoken nearly nine years ago after being convicted of kidnapping and robbery in that las vegas heist. >> i didn't mean to steal anything from anybody, and i didn't know i was doing anything illegal. i thought i was confronting friends. so i'm sorry. i'm sorry for all of it. >> reporter: at various points in the trial familiar faces. the goldman family and former prosecutor marcia clark, who tried a decade earlier to send him to prison, then working for "entertainment tonight." >> it was such a clown car of a
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case. it was a ridiculous case. and the witnesses were interesting. it was a weird thing to be doing, to cover that case. >> reporter: simpson and his five accomplices all under arrest and facing stiff charges. >> conspiracy to commit a crime, a gross misdemeanor offense. conspiracy it commit kidnapping, a felony offense. conspiracy to commit robbery, a felony offense. mr. simpson, do you understand the charges against you? >> yes, sir. >> reporter: his buddies begin to roll over, striking plea deals for lesser charges and no jail time. in exchange for testifying against their pal o.j. simpson. >> i said [ bleep ] o.j., i'm not going to prison for him. because i know he wouldn't go for me. >> do you solemnly swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. >> was it difficult for you to face your buddy in court like that and testify against him? >> my family in my own life was so much more important than whatever was going to happen with him at that point. >> reporter: but the star witness was tom riccio, who
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arranged the meeting between simpson and the dealers. he was granted immunity and secretly recorded that confrontation in room 1203. it was played in court. >> you're trying to take my [ bleep ] shirt. bag this [ bleep ] up. >> reporter: the only one not to cut a deal, c.j. stewart. >> but you could have avoided jail time if you just pleaded. >> i wanted to fight for what was right. and i rolled the days. >> and gambled with prison. >> somebody got to stand for what's right sometime in life. everybody was out for themselves. >> rise. >> reporter: but that roll of the dice would prove a bust following a two-week trial. >> guilty. count 2, conspiracy to commit kidnapping. guilty, count 3, conspiracy to commit robbery. >> reporter: 61-year-old simpson found guilty on all 12 counts. >> count 1, conspiracy to commit a crime, guilty. >> reporter: c.j. stewart, also guilty of robbery and kidnapping. >> when you heard those words and you're standing there in that courtroom -- >> i froze up.
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and i told the officers, take me to jail, i asked for this. i wasn't no victim. >> so you were beating yourself up at that moment? >> i'm sorry. >> that's all right. >> all right, mr. simpson, i'm going to sentence you as follows. count 1 -- >> reporter: and then that sentence. for simpson 9 to 33 years in prison. the former number 32 star running back would become prisoner number 1027820. >> i'm not here to sentence mr. simpson for what's happened in his life previously in the criminal justice system. >> the judge wanted a verdict to parallel the day of the o.j. simpson trial. i maintain that 33-year sentence echoed the $33.50 million that was imposed in the civil case. >> it's kind of a bittersweet
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moment knowing that that s.o.b. is going to be in jail for a very long time where he belongs. >> do you think o.j. simpson should be in jail right now? >> he's serving time for what happened in california. not what happened in nevada. nevada really was a slap on the wrist. >> the jury convicted you. and now i'll sentence you. >> reporter: stewart's hit with 7 1/2 to 27 years. >> thank you. mr. stewart, have a seat. >> reporter: his conviction would latering overturned. instead of a second trial he would plead no contest to charges of robbery and conspiracy and be released after 27 months. today stewart says that time behind bars scarred him for life. so you were in solitary confinement for 90 days? >> 94, i think. >> reporter: he now runs a construction company and has written a book that will be released this fall. are you bitter over what happened to you? >> i should be. and i am. but i don't carry it every day. it's going to take me years. >> i will never forget room 1203 nor will i ever forget what
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happened here with me and o.j. simpson at the palace station. >> reporter: michael mcclinton has also written a book. >> what was it like for you to walk into here again today? >> even right now talking about it my heart is pounding. >> reporter: walter alexander's life has changed too. he's now a minister. >> it's all about god's word in this church. >> reporter: each of the men involved in that vegas caper say it's right for simpson to finally win his freedom. >> i think it's a travesty that he's been in for nine years. i do not believe he committed that crime way back when. this is all about payback. >> reporter: as for the future, mcclinton offers simpson this advice. >> go sit your ass down and spend the rest of your life with your family and stay out of trouble. >> reporter: for "nightline" i'm deborah roberts in las vegas. two of o.j.'s cohorts in that robbery, charlie ehrlich and walter alexander, are writing books about the incident. and we'll be right back with more "nightline."
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one final note from us here at "nightline" on a thursday night. we've got some sad news to report from the world of pop music. linkin park front manchester bennington has died. the singer found dead in an apartment near los angeles in a suspected suicide. bennington was a two-time grammy winner and he released seven park. his bandmate mike shinoda tweeted today confirming the news. "shocked and heartbroken but it's true." bennington leaves behind his wife and six children. he was 41 years of age. we want to thank you for watching abc news. as always, we're online 24/7 a abcnews.com and on our "nightline" facebook page. >> welcome to hometown heroes week. for us, this week is all about paying tribute to some very special people who've done some truly amazing things. you can't put a price on the things these people have done, but a million dollars isn't a bad place to start. so let's play "who wants to be a millionaire." [cheers and applause] ♪ welcome, everybody. it's hometown heroes week onbe "
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i love this week. today's hometown hero received global attention as the whistleblower who exposed the flint, michigan water crisis. today we are celebrating her efforts by giving her a shot at from flint, michigan, please welcome dr. mona hanna-attisha. [cheers and applause] doctor, how you doing? >> awesome. good to h ♪ >> honored to have you here. thank you for coming. >> honored to be here. thank you. >> happy that you have a shot to do some good and make a million dollars today. okay, again, this was a global water crisis and the tainted water. you were the first one to shine veproblem. >> right, so it's a disaster, and actually, the people of flint were the heroes in this story, and for 18 months they were complaining about their water and unknown to them, really to the world, that it was contaminated with lead.

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