Former O.J. Simpson guard speaks as parole hearing looms

Noon on Thursday, July 20, 2017: O.J. Simpson will find out his fate at a parole hearing around 1 p.m. Thursday.

O.J. Simpson had never been convicted of a crime until the botched robbery a decade ago at a Las Vegas casino. Simpson said he was just trying to take back memorabilia that belonged to him -- at gunpoint. He was sentenced to 33 years.

"The first time I met O.J. was in the gym," said Jeffrey Felix, who was Simpson's first guard at the Lovelock Correctional Center. "O.J. had a very positive attitude. He knew he was going to get paroled and that's all he ever thought about."

Now 70 years old, Simpson will make his case to Nevada's parole board on Thursday.

"I think he'll say, 'I committed a crime, I've paid my time. I've accepted responsibility,'" said criminal defense lawyer Trent Copeland, who has followed Simpson's legal troubles since he was acquitted of the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

"Some people will say, 'Nevada did what California couldn't do,'" Copeland said. "But that 1994 case involving O.J. Simpson cannot be a part of this parole hearing, as a matter of law."

Despite the flurry of recent films about Simpson, he hasn't spoken publicly since his last parole hearing in 2013.

"I'm just sorry that all of this had to happen," Simpson said that year.

Felix says Simpson has been a model inmate, and deserves to be released.

"If you are in O.J.'s shoes and you kept clean for nine years and then you get denied parole, how is that even possible?" Felix said. "It might destroy him."

But even freedom could carry a price.    

If he gets released, Simpson "still will live with the albatross that comes with being the social pariah who many people believe is a  murderer," Copeland said.

If Simpson is granted parole on Thursday, he won't leave this remote desert prison immediately. His actual release date won't be until October.

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