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December 5, 2008

OJ Simpson gets 16-year prison sentence (but will be parole eligible in six) ... UPDATE: or did he get more??

Here's the latest news on OJ from this Bloomberg report:

O.J. Simpson, the former Buffalo Bills football player found not guilty 13 years ago of murdering his ex-wife and her friend, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for robbing two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint.

Nevada State Court Judge Jackie Glass pronounced sentence at a hearing today in Las Vegas, where the hotel holdup took place 14 months ago.  Simpson, 61, was found guilty by a jury on Oct. 3 following a three-week trial. He had faced as much as life in prison for the crime....

Simpson was sentenced to 15 years for first degree kidnapping, the most serious count, and at least 12 additional months for use of a gun in the commission of the crime. He will remain in custody if he appeals, and may be eligible for parole in six years.

Candidly, this sentence feels a bit short to me in light of OJ's history of violence, but I am not fully conversant on either the applicable state law or all the pertinent sentencing facts.  In addition, I suspect that Judge Glass considered OJ's age and the reality that any sentence much longer would be functionally close to a life sentence.

If anyone is knowledgeable about Nevada parole practices, I would love to hear speculations about how long OJ is really likely to serve given that his time behind bars could be only six year or a full decade longer based on Judge Glass's sentencing work today.

UPDATE:  I cannot help but notice that google searching about OJ's sentencing today has driven more traffic to this site over the last 3 hours than I usually get in a full week.  Seems like I ought to use this as an excuse to encourage voting for this blog in the crime category of the ABA Top 100 list.

Another UPDATEI am intrigued any confused to discover that CNN's report right now on the OJ sentencing says "O.J. Simpson gets 15 years, could be out in 9."  And yet this AP report is headlined, "O.J. sentenced to as many as 33 years for robbery."  WTF??!!??!!

Leave it to OJ to make a bloody mess of sentencing!

December 5, 2008 at 02:27 PM | Permalink


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O. J. Simpson received a sentence that could result in 33 years in prison, or he could be out on parole in 9, according to this AP story by Ken Ritter with Linda Deutsch.The judge specifically denied relying on Simpson's... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 5, 2008 2:58:10 PM


Any news on what the judge factored in during sentencing? Did he make factual findings on the homicide cases in CA?

Posted by: Alec | Dec 5, 2008 2:59:16 PM

Are you suggesting, Doug, that the judge should have considered OJ's "violent past" (i.e. his acquitted conduct)?

Posted by: | Dec 5, 2008 3:05:08 PM

From the AP story (linked at C&C): "The judge said several times that her sentence in the Las Vegas case had nothing to do with Simpson's 1994 acquittal in the slaying of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman."

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Dec 5, 2008 3:07:41 PM

Thanks Kent.

That answers that. What was his exposure again?

Posted by: Alec | Dec 5, 2008 3:15:46 PM

Dear anon (at 3:05:08 PM),

As I have suggested in some prior posts, I think the OJ case is a good example of one of the very few instances in which consideration of acquitted conduct might be constitutionally justifiable.

Chief reasons for this conclusion include the fact that (1) a civil jury ruled that OJ was responsible for the deaths of two people, (2) he is only facing an "acquitted conduct" sentencing increase because he went on to be convicted by a jury of a subsequent crime, and (3) he got an extraordinary benefit from his initial acquittal (in the form of freedom for 15 years).

I think sentencing increases clearly based on acquitted conduct when a jury reaches a split verdict in one case has lots of constitutional and practical problems. I think increases based on acquitted conduct in the sentencing for a subsequent crime justifies a different and more nuanced constitutional and practical assessment.

Hope that explains my position sufficiently (though there is a lot more behind this view, particularly as it relates to existing acquitted conduct rules that incentivize federal prosecutors to over-charge).

Posted by: Douglas A. Berman | Dec 5, 2008 3:19:18 PM

I feel sorry for his co-defendant. If OJ were not such a celebrity, there is no way he would be going away for 6+ years.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Dec 5, 2008 3:25:05 PM

Alec, there seems to be a discrepancy between the Bloomberg report that Doug links here and the AP report that is the basis for my post. I guess we'll get clarification later.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Dec 5, 2008 3:37:37 PM

Prof. Berman, I noticed some wild variation in headlines too. That is amazing! A comment on the media? or the complexities of sentencing?

Posted by: P.S. Ruckman, Jr. | Dec 5, 2008 4:23:46 PM

Um . . . did you just write "WTF"?

Posted by: ATM | Dec 5, 2008 4:33:59 PM

I am quite surprised, ATM, that you are drawn to comment on my use of three (random?) capital letters in my post. ;-) LOL.

Posted by: Douglas A. Berman | Dec 5, 2008 5:05:23 PM

Listen, OJ will be the case presented to the USSC challenging acquitted conduct. The charge of kidnapping is utterly ridiculous! It has been an attempt by the prosecution to hold him accountable for a crime he was acquitted of for GOOD reason, LOTS of money, and a DAMN good defense team.

Under our legal system all the defense need do is introduce reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt was introduced by his defense team while the murder case was presented in court. He got off. Perhaps the jury nullified the law because Nicole was less than the decent woman her parents want the public to believe she was--not that she DESERVES to be murdered for having several bed partners.

It's a sad day when learned men in the field still hold him accountable for actions that took place during Nicole's murder that were NEVER proven in the court of law. It shows the amount of respect, or more like LACK of respect, for our legal process.

When we get the verdict we want, we jump up and down and proclaim JUSTICE! But when we don't get what we want, be come the most ardent critics of our judicial system and process. Let's face it, when a person gets off it's not always justice or that he is innocent, but the system worked for him/her. When s/he gets a conviction, it's the same thing in reverse, the system FAILED to work for them, not necessarily that they are guilty.

Posted by: Ange | Dec 5, 2008 5:41:47 PM

Doug's comment was funnier than Ange's.

Posted by: Ben D | Dec 5, 2008 6:12:54 PM

Actually, Doug, I too was shocked to see WTF in a post by you. Everyone knows what those letters mean and it was extremely unprofessional for you to use them. This is especially bad since you note that you are getting a lot of traffic from Google that you wouldn't normally get.

I like your blog and the work you do, even when we disagree. I was disappointed to see you treat your work in such a caviler manner.

Posted by: Daniel | Dec 5, 2008 6:48:02 PM

Nevada attorney here. I've been trying to find a breakdown of the sentences on each of the counts. CNN has a list but it is at least partially wrong in that it states Simpson was sentenced to 15 years on each of the kidnapping charges. That sentence is not possible and I'm fairly certain that those were sentences of 5 to 15 years. With that assumption in mind, here's my analysis:
On count 8 he is sentenced to 5 to 15 years for robbery. Counts 1-7 are all concurrent with count 8 and counts 1-7 are all for equal or less time, so the 5 to 15 years covers all of those. He also receives an enhancement for 1-6 years for use of a weapon (counts 5, 6 and 7 are concurrent for the weapons enhancement also), so with these 8 counts he is looking at 6 years as a minimum and 21 years as a maximum. For count 9, assault with a deadly weapon, he was sentenced to a consecutive term of 18-72 months, so that brings him to 7.5 to 27 years. For count 10, another assault with a deadly weapon, he was sentenced to a consecutive term of 18-72 months, so the total minimum is 9 years and the maximum is 33 years.

The assaults with deadly weapons and robbery charges are category B felonies. In Nevada, he cannot earn credits off of the minimum sentences for category B felonies, so unless the law is changed or he receives a pardon or commutation (both of which are very difficult to receive), he will serve a minimum of 9 years. He will be able to earn statutory credits for working, education, good time other programs off of the maximum term. These can vary widely depending on his behavior and placement, but my guess is that he would likely expire his sentence at around 20 years if he is well behaved.

Simpson should appear before the Parole Board for consideration of an institutional parole on counts 5-8 in a little less than five years. If the Parole Board operates under its current standards, it will use a form which assigns point values to various factors and his score will be used to guide the Parole Board. They are not bound by the scoring system and may vary from it without explanation. Under the scoring system, Simpson will receive points for each conviction, even though the sentences are running concurrently to each other. Prison disciplinary actions, alcohol and drug use, and prior incarceration histories are also considered. Details are available here: http://www.parole.nv.gov/pubs/. If he receives an institutional parole from the first group of concurrent sentences, he will start serving the minimum sentence on count 9. And then the same process will be followed for count 10.

Because of the violent nature of the charges and his old age, he will not be eligible for boot camp or firefighter squads.

I'm not a betting person (primarily because I think I would be a fool to gamble and live full-time in Nevada), but my guess is that he'll serve 12 years - if his conviction is affirmed on appeal (the Batson issue looks interesting). He may serve less if he has extreme health problems due to old age and the near bankrupt Nevada prison budget weighs in favor of getting rid of an expensive inmate.

Posted by: JoNell | Dec 5, 2008 7:15:36 PM

Talkleft's crim team think this is how it works out:

Count 1: 1 year county jail; Count 2: 12 - 48 mos, concurrent with count1; Count 3: 12 - 48 mos concurrent with counts 1 and 2; Count 4: 26 mos to 120 mos; Count 5: 15 years, parole eligibility after 5 yrs, consecutive 12 - 72 mos; Count 6: 15 years, parole eligibility after 5 yrs, consecutive 12 - 72 mos, concurrent with count 5; Count 7: 60 - 180 mos, consecutive 12-72 months; Count 8: 60 - 180 mos, consecutive 12-72 months, concurrent with count 7; Count 9: 18 - 72 mos, consecutive to ct 8; Count 10: 18 - 72 mos, consecutive to ct 9.

How much time did he get? At first glance, it looks to me like he has to do at least 6 years on counts 1 through through 8, and then two additional sentences of 1.5 to 6 years each on counts 9 and 10, meaning a minimum of 6 + 3 (1.5 + 1.5) for a total minimum of 9 years. [

Posted by: anon | Dec 5, 2008 9:02:48 PM

Doug B,you are right on point! Also, the mere fact the Judge deemed it necessary to point out that her sentence was not influenced by the prior acquittal raises a cloud of susspension. I would like to know how many first time offenders that have conducted similarly crimes received this type of sentence. It appears that O.J. was a victim of his own celebrity. Now having said that I also think due to his careless and somewhat stupid behavior, he brought this on himself.

Posted by: Prof Lamar Odom | Dec 6, 2008 6:13:17 AM

Clear set up and the judge made errors that appear to give a good basis for appeal. For example, refusing to allow the defense to impeach a witness for lying.

Posted by: Jay | Dec 6, 2008 10:00:46 AM

Daniel (et al.?),

I must respond that I am shocked (and saddened) that you were inspired to write that you were "shocked to see WTF in a post." Given that this blog repeatedly reports on killings, executions, child molestations, extreme sentences and all sort of other horrible realities, I find it remarkable that you express shock at my use of three capital letters.

Somewhere, the late George Carlin is smiling very broadly about the fact that some readers find my one-time choice of a (funny?) not-quite-dirty-word more shocking than the many awful human realities that I report on each day.

How about a little perspective about what professionalism really means.

Posted by: Douglas A. Berman | Dec 6, 2008 12:36:03 PM

Daniel, lighten the "F" up with the WTF.

Posted by: | Dec 7, 2008 6:26:19 PM

Engineer here, offering a little (ok, very little) perspective; and some feedback (despite its admittedly little worth). I was searching for credible clarification on the Simpon sentencing that went beyond the typical sophomoric blog. I found it, thanks. But the "WTF" did give the first impression of a cheap blog. It didn't offend me, but there may be many people like myself (God save them if they are), who might quickly move on to another site, costing you advertising dollars. Thanks again -- good site. Deus Vobiscum

Posted by: sbg | Dec 8, 2008 1:24:42 PM

Everyone is wrong about the sentence. OJ will be eligible for parole release in 7 1/2 years and the most time he can possibly spend in prison is 20 years.

You will have to trust me that I know

Posted by: | Dec 14, 2008 4:40:22 PM

Simpson's civil and criminal trials were not the only important legal cases that were spawned by the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Posted by: jumping stilts | May 31, 2010 5:57:04 AM

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