Ex-Football star Simpson served nearly nine years behind bars for his part in a 2007 armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas. In 1994, he was acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman.
Disgraced former American Football star OJ Simpson was granted release from prison on Thursday after serving nearly nine years behind bars for armed robbery.
A four-member parole board voted unanimously to free the 70-year-old after a public hearing that was broadcast live by US television networks. Simpson's sister began weeping as the third of the four parole commissioners voted to release the former American Football star as of October.
Shirley Baker then began hugging Simpson's daughter Arnelle, the eldest of Simpson's four children, who also testified on his behalf, saying: "We recognize that he is not the perfect man," while adding that he had been "a perfect inmate, following all the rules and making the best of the situation."
Simpson relieved at verdict
OJ Simpson himself seemed overwhelmed with the verdict: "Thank you, thank you, thank you," he said quietly as he rose from his seat to return to his prison cell. Simpson had earlier pleaded for his release, saying he had "done his time" and that he wanted to return to his family.
"Right now I'm at a point in my life where all I want to do is spend as much time as I can with my children and my friends," Simpson said.
He could walk free as early as late September, and is expected to start reporting to a parole officer in his most recent official state of residence, Florida. Whether he will be able to move back to Florida remains to be seen, as Simpson may not be able to prove sufficient family ties in Florida.
Armed robbery in 2007
Simpson told the board that he had never pointed a gun at anyone nor made any threats during the crime that put him in prison, and insisted that he was only trying to reclaim personal property that belonged to him at the time of his arrest.
Prison life has visibly aged Simpson: this image was taken nine years earlier when he was convicted
"What I saw was my family, my mother's albums, pictures of my kids growing up," he told the board, speaking about the incident in 2007. However, the investigation in the case later revealed that some of the items turned out to never have belonged to Simpson.
Simpson said he regretted the incident because of how it affected the victim.
"I would have done anything not to have that happen," he said.
Simpson served the minimum number of years for the armed robbery and kidnapping case, which he spent in a medium-security facility north-east of the Nevada city of Reno. Had his parole been rejected, Simpson could have faced a total of 33 years in prison.
'Trial of the century'
The incident isn't, however, what made OJ Simpson famous around the world. The Football-player-turned-actor hit global headlines in 1994 when his wife Nicole Brown Simpson was found murdered outside her Los Angeles home, alongside her friend Ron Goldman. The legal proceedings that followed were quickly termed "the trial of the century" as record-breaking numbers of viewers followed the courtroom events on live television.
Simpson's trial became a sensation, with his 1995 acquittal becoming one of the most defining moments of popular culture. Simpson was still ordered to pay $33.5 million (29.1 million euros) in damages in a 1997 civil lawsuit. However, he failed to produce the money as he claimed for years that he was broke.
In the following ten years, Simpson had several run-ins with the law, culminating in his 2007 arrest.
ss/rt (AP, dpa)