PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP)—A legal expert is weighing in on O.J. Simpson’s early release saying that the crime that landed him behind bars was “the dumbest thing he could have done.”
Simpson was granted parole Thursday after more than eight years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel-room heist, successfully making his case for freedom in a nationally televised hearing that reflected America’s enduring fascination with the former football star.
Criminal Defense Attorney Fortunato Perri Jr. says he wasn’t surprised by the board’s decision.
“It wasn’t surprising to me at all… if you look back a few years ago he was actually paroled on 5 of the 12 counts that he was originally sentenced on, when he received a sentenced– of what I believe was an aggregate sentence of 9 to 33 years. I think it was more like a formality,” said Perri Jr.
During the more than hour-long hearing on live TV, Simpson was, by turns, remorseful, jovial and defensive, heatedly insisting the items taken in the armed robbery were “my stuff.”
At one point, the murder defendant in the 1995 “Trial of the Century” set off a storm of sarcasm and incredulity on social media when he said: “I’ve basically spent a conflict-free life, you know.”
All four parole commissioners who conducted the hearing voted for his release after a half-hour of deliberations. They cited, among other things, the low risk he might commit another crime, his community support and his release plans, which include moving to Florida.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Simpson said quietly as he buried his head on his chest with relief. As he rose from his seat to return to his prison cell, he exhaled deeply.
Asked if he was confident he could stay out of trouble if released, Simpson replied that he learned a lot from an alternative-to-violence course he took in prison and that in any case he has always gotten along well with people.
But what could send him back to prison?
“There are technical violations and direct violations,” said Perri Jr. “Technical violations could be: not reporting as required, maybe having a drug test, a failed drug test, or maybe being around convicted felons, those would be technical violations. The direct violation would obviously be a new arrest or charge that would send him right back to a state facility.”
Perri Jr. says you still give up a lot while on parole.
“I say to most of my clients that will listen to me, [if] you’re out on parole or probation you have to act like you’re kind of walking around in your own prison cell. You give up a lot of rights that you would have if you were not on probation or parole and because of that, there’s a lot of things that you need to walk away from. So if you’re going to work, just go to work. If somebody wants to argue with you when you’re driving down the street, somebody beeps their horn, you just have to ignore everyone and go about your own business.”
But the best advice is to keep your mouth shut and live your life, says Perri Jr.
“A lot of things have changed in nine years since he’s been away, but you have to look at his age now. He’s not going to try to do a lot of bouncing around I don’t think. He’ll probably try to play a lot of golf, hang around with his children…This last thing that had him incarcerated, I mean that was the dumbest thing he could have done…Keep your mouth shut, go play golf, go hang around with your kids, go for a walk, keep your mouth shut. Live your life.”
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