tv 2020 ABC July 14, 2017 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT
people we have met on our journey to arizona. that's it for us tonight. don't go anywhere. because "20/20" starts right now. tonight on "20/20," is o.j. simpson about to walk free? with his parole hearing coming up just next week, the whole world is watching, again. >> does it bother him that so many people detest him and think of him as a murderer? >> our "20/20" cameras take you to where it all wednesday down. this time, what happened in vegas didn't stay in vegas. >> you won't believe it. it was o.j. simpson.
>> revelations from the men inside that tiny room with him. >> room 1203 is a room you'll never forget, right? >> never forget that room. >> he said, can you get some heat? >> meaning a gun. >> and a rare look at simpson's life in lockup. claims from his former guard. >> he has a shrine to nicole. that's the first thing he sees when he wakes up. >> now his fate is in the hands of four strangers. >> but in the minds of many, will he be paying for one night in las vegas, or that night in los angeles? >> i think there's about a 52% chance that he'll get parole. but if he weren't o.j. simpson, i'd say it would be 92. >> o.j., his last play. >> good evening. i'm elizabeth vargas. >> and i'm david muir. right here tonight, o.j. simpson
is sitting in a cell, getting into shape for what could be a walk out of prison. >> after nine years in prison, and the las vegas robbery has its roots in the infamous civil trial in los angeles. tonight, "20/20," connecting all the dots. the rare interviews with the men, and what o.j. simpson was after that night in las vegas. and what are the chances he's about to go free? here's deborah roberts. >> reporter: there he is, 61-year-old o.j. simpson in a las vegas courtroom. in 2008, when a lifetime of good fortune runs dry. >> i thought i was confronting friends and retrieving my property. i didn't mean to steal anything from anybody and i didn't know i was doing anything illegal. so i'm sorry, i'm sorry for all
of it. >> reporter: convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping after that bungled memorabilia heist in a hotel room. >> i was heartbroken by it. o.j., what were you thinking? what were you thinking? >> all rise. >> reporter: walloped with a sentence that could amount to life behind bars, up to 33 years in a nevada prison. the judge saying the sentence fits this crime. >> i'm not here to try and cause any retribution or any payback for anything else. i want that to be perfectly clear to everyone. >> reporter: but former simpson manager norman pardo says many see the stiff penalty less as justice, than as just desserts. >> i mean she made it sure, that judge did, that it was going to be a show. that this was done for a reason, mr. simpson. this was done to show you, we can do what we want, you are guilty.
maybe not of stealing a bunch of footballs. but you're going to be guilty of murder, and we are putting yter road to that low rent las vegas caper begins nearly a dozen years earlier with one of the most controversial acquittals in history. not guilty of murdering his ex-wife nicole brown simpson and ron goldman in june of 1994. the white bronco, leading to the trial of the century and a cavalcade of the suddenly famous. judge ito, marcia clark, christopher darden, kato kaelin. cochran, kardashian, shapiro, and f. lee bailey, the dream team. and that phrase that helped set him free. >> if it doesn't fit, you must acquit. >> we find the defendant not guilty. >> reporter: that "not guilty" verdict keeps him out of prison, but simpson soon finds himself snubbed by his old upper crust golfing buddies and scorned by many adoring fans who embraced him before the killings.
>> we actually believed that if he's found not guilty, we all go back to our lives and we just move on. he thought he'd walk right back into it. >> i think the vast majority of the people in brentwood thought he was guilty, and it became very uncomfortable for him to be here. >> reporter: rejected by much of white america, simpson turns to the black community, showing up at church services. like this appearance at scripture cathedral in washington, d.c., a year after the trial. >> as my mother told me the truth will set you free, and it did. >> reporter: simpson grants his first post-trial interview to ed gordon on b.e.t. >> why don't you sell the brentwood estate, go away for a little while. >> go where? where, do they want me to go to africa? is that what some of those people would want? go where?
i live in l.a. >> this was right after the trial? >> yes, this was at his 50th birthday party. >> reporter: walter alexander, a minister now, was in real estate when he met simpson soon after the acquittal, inviting him to join his regular golf game. >> i was the person who introduced him to the black golfing community. hollywood had pretty much turned their back on him and they didn't want him at the country club anymore. >> reporter: c.j. stewart says he began golfing with simpson in 2004. did you have any view about his guilt or innocence? >> i'm being totally honest with you. i didn't care. i really wasn't concerned. >> reporter: but simpson also begins to attracting the kind of friends you don't meet on the golf course. >> a different o.j. came out of that trial. the first o.j. was a heisman trophy winner, the runner, the actor. and then after the trial, became
the more godfather figure, and there was more of the bad guys coming up to him because they want to hang with the ultimate bad guy. >> reporter: the victim's families sue. and the civil trial, a year after the criminal case, goes very differently. no cameras in court and simpson is forced to testify. >> and that changed everything. >> did you ever physically hurt her? >> yes. >> did you ever bruise her? >> yes. >> reporter: once o.j. simpson had to testify himself, and his story completely fell apart, it was a totally different game. >> a very brief interruption, everybody. in case you haven't heard the news until now, there has been a verdict in the o.j. simpson civil trial in california. >> reporter: this time the jury finds simpson liable, awarding a wrongful death judgment of a whopping $33.5 million. >> today's 2 1/2 years, a little over 2 1/2 years and we finally have justice for ron and nicole. >> reporter: elizabeth vargas spoke with fred goldman. >> is it justice? >> not the justice i would like.
but it's a way of getting some justice. >> reporter: although simpson has always denied any involvement in the murders. his career, all those lucrative gigs. tv pitchman. >> hertz, the superstar in car rental. >> reporter: movie roles. that had all cratered after the first trial. and now the goldmans begin squeezing the juice. >> in santa monica today the judge in the o.j. simpson trial he will order mr. simpson to turn over more than 100 of his belongings to the court including his heisman trophy, and his golf clubs. >> reporter: the sheriff sends moving trucks to simpson's mansion, but the former running back and his supporters are ahead of them. >> the sheriff's department ese two giant moving trucks. so we knew the day before that they were coming to seize these various items.
there was quite a few people, his family and friends, moving stuff out and taking it up to different homes. o.j. was out playing golf. deniability. i left. i had his collectibles, personal items, tiffany lamps, a carpet. >> reporter: mike gilbert also took things for himself, under an arrangement he says he had with simpson to accept memorabilia in lieu of payment. although some things, he says, no one had a right to take. >> it bothered me when they started taking things that i didn't think was just. >> o.j., my congratulations of all of us for your impeccable character. >> thank you, mr. cosell. >> thank you, mrs. simpson. >> thank you. >> how do you take away his heisman? >> reporter: that trophy is sold at auction for a quarter million dollars. but other memorabilia will make its way to hotel room in las vegas, where the cops and some
might say karma are about to catch up with o.j. simpson. >> people have always said to us, you know, karma will get him in the end. >> our effort of constantly going after him maybe pushed him, even only this much into committing armed robbery. ain't that wonderful? ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ i will nevi will neverair again. never wash my hair again now, i fuel it new pantene. the first shampoo with active pro-v nutrient blends that puts in what others just strip out.
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show girls, and celine. welcome to sin city. it's september 13th, 2007, and o.j. simpson, now a sullied celebrity, is back on the las vegas strip. not headed to the clubs, but rather the chapel. he's the best man at his friend tom scotto's wedding. >> he was more excited for me to get married than i was. my wedding was a four-day event. we had parties every night. >> reporter: but that's not the only reason simpson's excited. he's gets a tip that some of his lost and valuable personal memorabilia will also be in las vegas. >> i got a call, it was al beardsley. >> he's a 6'6", 300-pound, o.j. fanatic. saying, "i have all the stuff from o.j.'s trophy room. he didn't pay his bills, his agent stole them." >> reporter: he tries to authenticate the items.
as simpson will later learn, riccio likes to covertly record conversations. >> between you and i, this is stuff o.j. personally loves. >> called o.j., o.j. said, "look tom, this is not memorabilia. these are personal artifacts that were stolen from me." >> reporter: simpson's staying here at the palms resort and poolside, he huddles up with riccio and some other buddies and strategizes a major play to score back some of his stuff. >> he says to me, "i need someone that i could trust to go up there or go and see what it is." >> reporter: meet charlie ehrlich, a miami strip club promoter and part of simpson's new pack of friends. ehrlich says simpson asks him to pose as a buyer. >> i said, "o. j., listen. for you, i'm going to do this." >> reporter: he leaves and later upstairs in simpson's hotel room, the planning continues. and so does riccio's recording. listen as the juice gets in game mode. >> can you lower the tv a little
bit? it's 3:30 already. so we're talking about 6:00. >> reporter: by now, someone else has joined this company of conspirators, simpson's old golfing buddy, walter alexander. what was the plan? what did o.j. say he wanted to do? >> 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?" >> reporter: meaning a gun. >> meaning a gun. and when he said that i hesitated. >> reporter: alexander may have hesitated, but someone else soon steps up. he runs a security company and has a conceal carry permit. his name? michael mcclinton, a simpson pal from the vegas night club scene. >> 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. you know, 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 they going to do, take me to jail for taking my own stuff? >> reporter: the stage is set, and simpson's motley crew is now four deep. riccio, the go-between, heads north to the palace station hotel to link with the memorabilia dealers. watch, as they bring in the haul. >> we took the memorabilia down to the room, set it all up for this supposed buyer that was coming in. >> reporter: what you will see next is like a real-life version of "ocean's eleven," captured by the constellation of cameras dotting the hotel ceiling. a half-hour later, simpson and the others hit the road. he's now recruited two other
guys, including c.j. stewart. he gets in the car and he says what? >> man, i got 15 minutes to get there. you don't even have to get out the vehicle, just please don't leave me there. and i look around, i got two other guys in, in the vehicle with him. >> reporter: that would be ehrlich and another man. the pretend buyers head in first. you're watching ehrlich on the casino floor, making a phone call to find out the room number. >> two seconds later, i look down the hallway, i see o.j., this guy clarence stewart, these two black guys, who looked like they were out of "miami vice." slicked back hair, versace glasses, suits. i go, "who the [ bleep ] are these guys?" excuse my french. i'm like, "oh, boy. this is -- this is a typical o.j. move." >> reporter: he takes me back to that lobby at the palace station hotel, which is currently undergoing significant renovation. so you come in here, you gather with all of these guys in
who's -- who's sort of in charge of the plan? >> mr. simpson is in charge. >> reporter: what did he say? >> well, he said that we got to wait for some guys to come from down this way. >> reporter: then for the first time everyone comes together. >> no one knew anybody. it was like going to the gunfight at the o.k. corral. >> reporter: or in room 1203. remember, mcclinton and alexander are each armed with a pistol. >> when we got to the door, mr. simpson asked me to show my gun and look menacing. we all barged into the room. the guys in the room were shocked to see mr. simpson. >> this guy had a face on that was just, a rage. >> i seen this guy getting ready to go up under the mattress. first thing went to my mind, it was a firearm. so pinned him back against the wall and said, "no, don't do that." what's going on here? next thing, simpson, you could hear his voice coming in. >> think you can steal my [ bleep ] and sell it? >> reporter: this is actual audio of simpson inside that room. secretly recorded by riccio, it
would be critical later in the courtroom. >> it was stated that i pointed the gun and i can tell you now, being honest as possible, i never pointed that gun at anybody. >> i did take my gun out for one, like, a split second and when i realized that the room was safe i just put it back in. >> reporter: did you think at that moment that that was a mistake? >> 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 in a small room, that barely holds a bed and a bureau. >> so o.j. says, "pack up the stuff. pack up all the stuff and let's get out of here." >> reporter: they grab everything in sight, autographed footballs, o.j.'s plaques, joe montana lithographs, baseballs signed by pete rose. and even neckties, and stuff them in pillowcases from the bed. >> he looked like santa claus.
walking out of the room. >> reporter: only thing left behind, this box and a phone book. nothing was safe from pilfering. >> i actually went and snatched the cord of the phone out of the wall and i took bruce's cell phone. >> reporter: why did you take his cell phone? >> because i didn't want him to call the police. >> reporter: so you leave the room. >> yes. >> reporter: what are you thinking at that point? >> that we just did a robbery. >> reporter: when we come back, simpson celebrates his high-stakes heist with a night on the town. >> ghost bar, playboy club. every night we were out until 6:30 in the morning. >> reporter: but he is the one who is about to get squeezed. >> 911, at's your emergency. >> i just got robbed by o.j. simpson. >> reporter: next. h, no bars. oh no, looks like somebody needs a new network. when i got this unlimited plan they told me they were all the same. they're not. verizon has the largest, most reliable 4g lte network in america. it's basically made for places like this.
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>> reporter: it's a thursday night in las vegas, football legend o.j. "the juice" simpson is out celebrating over sushi and sake at the little buddha restaurant. he just made what could be his biggest score since his playing days, taking back memorabilia he believes is his. >> we all met at the palms and had sushi and o.j. was there
laughing and he just thought it was the funniest thing. >> reporter: listen to this audio of simpson that night, joking about the robbery. >> it was a strong arm robbery. they came in with guns. >> reporter: it seems there is no unrecorded moment in this caper. yet another accomplice, michael mcclinton, secretly taping simpson because he says he doesn't trust him. >> at that time, i knew he was full of [ bleep ]. and i thought something was going to go down. >> the last thing i want is at 4:00, them [ bleep ] coming in here and arresting me. >> reporter: but o.j. simpson is about to become the butt of his own joke because unbeknownst to him, the memorabilia dealer alfred beardsley has already called the cops. >> 911 emergency. >> we were just robbed at gunpoint by o.j. simpson. can you send police here please? >> where are you? >> the palace station hotel in las vegas. we were just robbed by o.j. simpson and four other black men at gunpoint.
>> i need to know who we're looking for. four black men and o.j. simpson is not enough. i'm going to need to know what they were wearing. >> reporter: frustrated by the 911 operator, the dealers then try to report simpson in the lobby as seen here on hotel surveillance cameras. >> i went up to the front desk and i said, "i need security. i was just robbed by o.j. simpson," and they started laughing. >> reporter: police arrive 15 minutes later. >> the cops showed up, and they were really lax about it. they were like, "so you were robbed. o.j. simpson. who else was here, al cowlings?" >> reporter: and all that time o.j. is thinking, no big deal. >> o.j. is drunk, okay. o.j. was inebriated. he was definitely drunk. and it was all funny to him. he just kept saying, no guns. just say there wasn't guns. >> reporter: a line simpson would repeat to police who find and question him the next day, but he's not arrested and dons his tux for the wedding.
remember, he is best man for his friend tom scotto. >> the wedding day went perfect. o.j. was in great spirits, in a positive mood. >> reporter: but simpson's wide smile will soon fade. >> boom, right after the wedding, they pick him up, they lock him up. >> reporter: he and his buddies are about to get busted. and you knew what was happening. >> i knew it was going down. >> reporter: police search alexander's bag, not for a stolen football, but rather the identifying suit he was wearing. why? they need to match his outfit to the surveillance tape. >> when you go to the casino you're filmed from the minute you go in the door. there was a recording of the entire caper. >> reporter: did it not occur to you all that there is a camera here, cameras here, cameras all over the place? >> that wasn't on my mind and i'm sure it wasn't on the other guys' minds either.
>> reporter: and soon it was headline news. deja vu all over again, o.j. simpson in handcuffs. and soon back in familiar territory. a courtroom. >> conspiracy to commit kidn kidnapping, a felony offense. >> reporter: in the gallery, some familiar faces, the goldman family. >> you can't write a better story. >> reporter: simpson and his five pals, all under arrest and facing stiff charges. they begin to roll over on the football great, striking a plea deal for lesser charges and no jail time in exchange for testifying against their buddy o.j simpson. >> i'm not going to prison for him, because i know he wouldn't go for me. >> reporter: but the star witness is tom riccio, the man who arranged the meeting between simpson and the dealers. he's granted immunity. remember, he secretly recorded the confrontation in room 1203, listen as it's played in court. >> you tried to take my
[ bleep ] shirt. bag this [ bleep ] up. >> o.j. got duped by tom riccio. he set o.j. simpson up. oh, yeah, tom riccio is a rat. >> name the person i ratted on. >> riccio says that it was o.j. simpson who was giving the orders in the room. >> maybe i did. all right, so i'm a rat. >> reporter: following a two-week trial, 13 years to the day of this infamous moment, o.j. simpson's fate is once again in the hands of a jury. the 61-year-old found guilty on all 12 counts. friend c.j. stewart, the only one not to have cut a deal, also found guilty of armed robbery. when you heard those words and you're standing there in that courtroom -- >> i froze up.
i asked for this. i left myself open. i wasn't no victim. i allowed myself to get caught up. >> reporter: you were beating yourself up at that moment. >> i'm sorry. >> reporter: that's all right. take your time. it's okay. >> i just wanted my personal things and i realize i was stupid. i didn't mean to hurt anyone and i didn't mean to steal from anyone. thank you. >> all right mr. simpson, i'm going to sentence you as follows. count one. >> reporter: and then that stiff sentence -- up to 33 years in prison. >> i'm not here to sentence mr. simpson for what happened in his life previously in the criminal justice system. >> the judge wanted a verdict to parallel the -- the day of the o.j. simpson trial, i maintain that 33-year sentence echoed the $33.5 million that was imposed in the civil case.
that, in my mind, was not a coincidence. >> it's kinf of a bittersweet moment knowing that s.o.b. is going to be in jail where he belongs. >> reporter: the onetime poster boy, now posing for a different kind of close-up. >> o.j. went from a castle to a cage. >> reporter: next, what's life like for o.j. simpson, behind bars after nine years. >> on his shelf next to his bed he has a shrine to nicole. >> reporter: inside the juice's prison cell. stay with us. mmm...that's some really good chicken. i don't think i've ever tasted chicken like this. what!? here come the accents. blueberries and pumpkin. wow. that was my favorite bite so far. not even kidding. i mean that was... ...oh! spinach! mmm. that's like three super foods. pretty, uh, well...super. now i got kind of a pumpkin, chicken thing going on... ...whoop! time to wrestle. (avo) new beneful grain free. out with the grain, in with the farm-raised chicken. healthful. flavorful. beneful.
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with o.j.: his last play. >> reporter: far from the limelight of los angeles and las vegas, 90 miles from reno, nevada, is the rural city of lovelock, just two square miles, population, 2,000. >> you're really essentially in the middle of nowhere. a smattering of casinos there. cow pastures. >> reporter: lovelock correctional center, a medium security prison almost the size of the city itself. 1,700 inmates, including prisoner number 1027820. >> i think he's probably the most famous inmate in the united states at this time. we just see him as inmate simpson, just like any other inmate. >> reporter: when he first arrived in 2008, he got a greeting from an unlikely pen pal. you wrote him a card in prison. what did it say? >> welcome to your new digs, signed, the goldman family. >> reporter: simpson's friend of 20 years, dr. henry johnson, has visited him throughout his confinement.
how would you describe his fall from grace? >> o.j. simpson being in that prison, coming from an 8,000-square-foot mansion on top of rockingham. that's a very humiliating place to be. >> reporter: his cell, like this one at lovelock, is 90 square feet, with the standard issue bunk bed, toilet, sink, and 13-inch tv. >> two people live in a cell. you have a little desk area, some shelves. some of them have hot plates. >> his first years at lovelock were really difficult. he kept to himself. he didn't really socialize. but after a while, he kind of acclimated to life behind bars. >> reporter: david ng, a reporter for the "l.a. times," spoke to former inmates about simpson's daily routine. >> he gets up early in the morning. he likes cold cereal for breakfast. after that, he goes to work.
his job is in the prison gym. >> reporter: simpson describing that work in a 2013 parole hearing. >> i help supervise the activities in the gym. i start each day disinfecting the workout equipment in the gym, mopping floors. >> former inmates who are now outside of lovelock, always noted was how popular o.j. remains among the prison population. >> everybody at the prison wants to talk to o.j. and get some juice time. >> reporter: jeffrey felix, who worked as a correctional officer at lovelock for 20 years, wrote a book called "guarding the juice." felix says simpson was lucky to land at lovelock. >> lovelock is like a cruise ship with barb wire. they have ping-pong. they have basketball. o.j. is the softball commissioner of a lovelock correctional center softball league. >> reporter: he adds that simpson's fame has led to some special treatment. >> o.j. simpson, the juice, the heisman trophy winner does not wait on line. he'll go to the front of the clinic line, the front of the
canteen line, the front of the culinary line. he talks really loud and he talks in the third party. so, like, for example, he would say, "hey, the juice is hungry. let's go to the culinary." it's kind of weird. >> reporter: the prison says simpson is treated like every other inmate, but felix claims the officers handle him with caution. >> you just can't put o.j. in handcuffs. you have to have sergeant or above approval to do that. if you're covering an area with a weapon, and there's a fight, the untold rule is, make sure the juice isn't there when you go shoot because if you shoot, you miss and you hit o.j. simpson, it's going to be a very bad day. >> reporter: as for passing time, felix says for o.j. it's still about sports. >> o.j. simpson watches espn 24 hours a day. he read sports magazines. >> reporter: and he has a notable memento in his cell next to his bed. >> he has a shrine to nicole. it's a picture of him and nicole, and it sits on his shelf. so when o.j. rolls over in the morning when he wakes up, that's the first thing he sees. >> reporter: tell me what that is like, when you walk into that visiting room and he comes out. what happens between the two of you? >> the show starts.
>> reporter: the show starts? >> the show starts. o.j.'s a showman, even in prison garb. >> reporter: what's the hardest thing for him? >> well, i think the hardest thing is being separated from family and friends. >> i've missed my two younger kids, who we worked hard getting through high school, i missed their college graduations. i've missed my sister's, i should say, funeral. i missed all the birthdays and various things. >> reporter: even with simpson on the inside, outside fascination remains with programs like espn's oscar winning documentary, "o.j.: made in america." and the fx emmy award-winning series, "the people vs. o.j. simpson." >> people wanted to know was he watching it, what did he think? did he like how cuba gooding jr. portrayed him? he did not have access to watch those shows. >> reporter: felix says simpson's focus has been one thing, parole. >> he's on his best behavior
24 hours a day, seven days a week. he's been there for nine years. he's never had a write-up. not getting a write-up in a prison, it's kind of like being followed by highway patrol for nine years and never getting a citation. >> reporter: next, simpson at 70. in one week, will he be set free? >> the bookies, the ones that make bets under the table, have a bet. will o.j. simpson get his parole? and he has a big time favorite to get his parole. >> reporter: stay with us. this clean was like pow! everything well? my teeth are glowing. they are so white.
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good morning. >> good morning. >> mr. simpson, is there a statement you'd like to make today? >> yes. >> reporter: the commissioners weighing whether to parole simpson on five of the 12 charges he's convicted of. simpson making the case as to why he's a worthy candidate. >> i am just sorry that i had to send the state of nevada legal
system through all of this because i know it's not been fun for the people involved. >> reporter: using a comprehensive review process, the board weighed 11 different criteria like conduct in prison, prior convictions, age, possible gang activity or substance abuse. >> it is going to measure, what is the risk to the community. what is the inmate's likelihood to re-offend. >> i have spoken at length to both of the victims. they've apologized. i've apologized. >> reporter: and simpson coming through with flying colors. the criteria says he's a "low risk" parole candidate. >> it does take a majority of four of the seven commissioners to grant or deny parole. >> he's paroled on the five charges. but that doesn't mean simpson is a free man. the remaining charges, involving assault with a deadly weapon, ensure that he stays behind bars for at least another four years. >> mr. simpson was not eligible for release at that time. so he's now coming up for parole release on those counts.
>> reporter: now that day of judgment is here. next thursday, the parole board reconvenes back in that same hearing room in carson city, nevada. given the results of the last hearing, simpson would seem a shoe-in for a full parole. after all, he's the only member of the robbery team to serve serious prison time. the others are all free men. accomplice michael mcclinton, who's written a book about the case, says it is unfair for simpson to be singled out. should he be paroled? >> i think so. i think that he's giving them what they asked. they asked for 9 1/2 on 33. >> reporter: but of course, none of his accomplices enjoy simpson's notorious reputation. next week's hearing will feature a live video feed with a horde of tv crews and reporters present. >> the parole board knows the world is watching. the question's going to be, can
simpson get four to say, "i'm just not going to let the fact that he's almost certainly a murderer impact my decision." >> reporter: though simpson was acquitted of the murders of br the victims' families have made their thoughts on parole well known. >> what will that picture look like to you? >> disgust. >> are you tired of fighting this fight? >> no. you know, if it keeps him in jail. >> reporter: but by law, the parole board is supposed to ignore the notorious murder case. >> he wasn't convicted. and so that doesn't count in any way. >> reporter: but there's also simpson's star status to consider. attorney bruce zucker, who specializes in parole hearings in california, says boards can be especially wary of cases involving celebrities. >> the celebrity factor is huge, whether the person is the defendant or the victim. and one of the things that they
consider whether they admit it or not is, "what's going to happen when this guy gets out and my name is on his walking papers?" >> reporter: take the case of the infamous manson family killing of actress sharon tate. it took more than 40 years for a parole board to sign off on the release of the youngest manson follower, leslie van houten. >> she was a perfect example of somebody who was very unpopular, obviously. has been a model inmate. but nobody in the california parole board is excited about signing her parole papers. and in fact, the governor of california has just vetoed it. >> reporter: you'd think simpson might be cut some slack because of his advanced age. after all, he just turned 70. some might even say he's due for a "shawshank redemption"-style release for the elderly. but again, in the case of simpson, all bets are off. >> let's call him john simpson. 70-year-old john simpson would
almost certainly get parole. but this is o.j. >> reporter: still, former parole commissioner dorla salling has faith in the process. >> i know these people and they'll just look at the facts of the case to make the best decision that they can make. >> reporter: next thursday, simpson will either be granted parole, denied or if the board deadlocks, wait for another hearing next january. in vegas, former prison guard jeffrey felix says people are already betting on the outcome. >> the bookies have a bet. will o.j. simpson get his parole and he has a big-time favorite to get his parole. >> i think there's about a 52% chance that he will get parole. but if you weren't o.j. simpson, i'd say it would be 92%. >> reporter: next, what will become of simpson if he is released? could he become a millionaire again? and will he return to his hard-partying lifestyle? >> after he gets out of prison he's going to go right back to
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o.j. simpson was doing this -- rapping, partying, basking in the glow of recognition and fame but at 70 years old, and with the prospect of returning to society after nine years in prison, will simpson also return to the fast life? friend tom scotto says no. >> he wants to be with his kids. he wants to be with his family. and wants to play golf. it's going to be hard for him. >> he's had nine years to reflect on the mistakes in his life and let's hope that his final chapter will be a peaceful one. >> reporter: but trading his prison mop for a 9 iron and the 90-square-foot cell for that sprawling miami mansion he left behind will come with challenges. after two years of an unpaid mortgage, simpson can no longer
hang his hat in the 4,200-square-foot florida home. it was sold in foreclosure. >> you got a 33-year sentence. what is he going to do, keep the house for 33 years? no, that wouldn't be a business decision. >> reporter: and if simpson decides to re-enter the workforce, there's that 1997 civil lawsuit where the goldman and brown families were awarded a $33.5 million judgment. >> the goldmans, they're going to be in his head forever, because he can't make a penny without it going right to the goldman family to pay off that judgment. >> reporter: but if simpson gets ex-con status, chances are he won't be destitute thanks to his generous nfl pension. >> the goldmans can't get access to it, legally. so he gets that $25,000 a month and the goldmans can't get a penny of it.
>> reporter: the nfl declined to comment on what simpson may receive. and in the blinding light that is o.j.'s charm, chances are simpson will continue to be surrounded by adoring fans, just as he was before prison. some who insist he is not a murderer, others who don't care. >> something takes over when you're in his presence. >> i'm 74 years old, but i want to meet o.j. >> and there's just a sense of wanting to believe him and go to this place where everything is still okay. >> i've been waiting to meet you all my life. >> his friends would call it the o.j. effect. they would say, yeah, you got o.j.'d. >> reporter: the goldmanes are hoping his bad karma continues.
>> for me, the only thing that would be appropriate is if he was found guilty and put the death. >> "20/20" reached out to o.j. simpson about his upcoming parole hearing, but his lawyer told us he had no comment. his earliest release would be october 1st. >> and his cohorts in the robbery are all writing books about the incident. that's our program for tonight. thanks so much for watching. i'm elizabeth vargas. >> i'm david muir. from all of us here at "20/20" and abc news, thank you for watching. good night. p . in an instant a life or death moment in oakland. >> next, what happens in the next split second on this