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O.J. Simpson lawyers argue for prison release

Attorneys want former football star out of prison during appeals process

Updated Monday, Aug. 3, 2009 | 11:48 a.m.

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This is O.J. Simpson's booking photo in Nevada's High Desert State Prison.

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O.J. Simpson’s time behind bars may soon be behind him if his lawyers get their way.

The disgraced football hero is in lockup in Lovelock but his attorneys are in Las Vegas this morning to ask the court to let him go.

Simpson lawyers Malcolm LaVergne and Yale Galanter today asked a three-justice panel to let their client out on bail while they work on his appeal.

Simpson, 62, was sentenced in December to 33 years after a jury found him guilty of all 12 charges he faced following a run-in with two memorabilia dealers in a Palace Station hotel room in 2007.

The former All-Star running back was convicted in October of robbery, kidnapping and weapons charges and is not eligible for parole for nine years. If the appeal is unsuccessful, he could spend the rest of his natural life behind bars.

The former football star’s lawyers presented this morning’s arguments at the Clark Country Regional Justice Center to Justices Michael Cherry, Nancy Saitta and Mark Gibbons.

Meanwhile, District Attorney David Roger is arguing to keep Simpson behind bars.

The ruling will have no effect on his appeal, which is currently underway and has yet to be decided.

“Whether bail should be granted (is) the absolute only issue the court is going to deal with at this hearing,” LaVergne said.

The hearing was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. but it is not known when the justices will return with their decision.

LaVergne said this morning’s three-justice panel will consider a variety of factors, including the merits of District Court Judge Jackie Glass’ conviction, Simpson’s flight risk and the disgraced NFL star’s risk to public safety.

If bail is granted, the justices will issue a list of conditions that Simpson and his lawyers will have to satisfy before the Heisman Trophy winner will be released. As such, Simpson likely would remain in prison for several days even if the justices ultimately rule in his favor.

Two possible conditions include not leaving the state of Nevada and maintaining regular check-ins with a court’s representative, LaVergne said.

While both the prosecution and the defense are being given 30 minutes to present their oral arguments.

“This hearing is such a rare type (of) hearing,” the Las Vegas-based LaVergne said.

He said he spoke with his client a few weeks ago, just after the former football star celebrated his 62nd birthday behind bars.

LaVergne said Simpson is doing well, all things considered.

“He’s in good spirits,” he said. “He’s waiting to see what happens at this hearing.”

Simpson’s appeal is not expected to be decided for several months.

“We may be actually hearing the appeal by the end of the year,” he said. “I hope so, the sooner the better.”

He and Galanter are asking the Supreme Court to allow them to present oral arguments regarding Simpson’s appeal.

If the court agrees to hear oral arguments, the case would be argued in Carson City, not Las Vegas, where Simpson was convicted last year.

Simpson’s legal team expects the case to go before all seven of the state’s Supreme Court justices.

“Generally, these type of cases are decided by a three-justice panel but this is not a typical case,” LaVergne said.

Melissa Arseniuk writes about Las Vegas entertainment and celebrity events. She can be reached at 702-948-7823 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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