O.J. Simpson’s date with a Nevada parole board Thursday is quickly approaching national obsession status, reminiscent of his double murder trial, dubbed the Trial of the Century.
“In a way, I’m being forced to follow it. Is this the parole hearing of the century? I guess it is. People want his release. It’s hard to understand,” Darden told the Daily News on Tuesday.
“You don’t hear this much about (Charles) Manson and his parole hearings,” he said. “This is the parole hearing of the century.”
Simpson, 70, is incarcerated at Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Facility for robbing two memorabilia dealers at a Las Vegas casino hotel back in 2007.
Prosecutors said he led a ragtag group of armed friends into the ill-fated heist. Simpson claimed he never saw a gun and only wanted to retrieve family heirlooms stolen by a former manager.
The former football star was sentenced to nine to 33 years in 2008. He has already served more than eight years and hopes the parole board will let him walk free in October.
One of his victims, collectibles broker Alfred Beardsley, died in 2015. The other, Bruce Fromong, is expected to attend the proceeding and show support for Simpson’s release.
Though he won’t be at the hearing in person, Fred Goldman, the father of murder victim Ron Goldman, told The News he wants Simpson to remain locked up.
“I’ll be following it,” Goldman said in a brief phone interview Tuesday.
Asked if he opposed Simpson’s release, Goldman said, “Absolutely, I do.”
In a nod to public fascination with Simpson’s saga, Nevada officials said the Thursday hearing will be streamed live, with a decision from the four-member board expected in a matter of hours, not the usual several days. If granted parole, Simpson could be released on Oct. 1.
Simpson’s best friend Tom Scotto told The News he planned to be in a conference room at the prison with Simpson on Thursday. Simpson will appear at the hearing via video conference.
He said the Heisman Trophy winner has been a “positive” force at Lovelock and deserves his freedom.
“There’s no reason he shouldn’t get (parole). He’s done everything right. He’s pretty much been a model prisoner,” Scotto said.
Scotto, 55, also scoffed at the announcement by Fox News that it hired disgraced cop Mark Fuhrman as a paid pundit for its on-air coverage of the hearing.
“He’s a racist and a convicted felon,” Scotto said of Fuhrman, referring to his perjury conviction for testifying that he hadn’t used the N-word in the previous 10 years. “Everyone saw he’s a racist on live TV.”
Fuhrman, 65, was a notorious figure during Simpson’s double murder trial.
He told jurors he found the bloody glove that seemed to connect Simpson to the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, but then recordings surfaced in which he repeatedly used the N-word, and his credibility was shredded.
The veteran cop eventually pleaded no contest to felony perjury. He was sentenced to three years’ probation.
“He shouldn’t be allowed on any major news station at all,” Scotto said Tuesday. “He’s not just a convicted felon, but convicted of perjury. How can he be a serious commentator on TV, talking about any cases, let alone this one? He lied during (Simpson’s murder) trial!”
Simpson was in Vegas attending Scotto’s wedding at the time of the robbery that landed him in prison.
Fuhrman previously told The News his recorded use of the N-word didn’t reflect his true persona. He was consulting on dialogue for a movie, he said, and it was part of a dramatic character he was portraying.
“We were writing a screenplay,” he explained. “Some people say, ‘Well, you had to think those things to say them.’ Okay, I did. But I could absorb a lot of personalities and regurgitate them.”
The commissioners scheduled to quiz Simpson will be in Carson City about a two-hour drive from Simpson’s prison cell. Officials have issued more than 240 media credentials.
Simpson is expected to appear heavier and grayer than he did during his heyday as a charismatic TV pitchman, movie actor, sports commentator and inductee into the Football Hall of Fame.
Scotto said his friend is eager to resume his life on the outside.
“He wants to be near his kids,” Scotto said. “He misses his family.”
Simpson’s former lawyer Yale Galanter expects “The Juice” to be let loose, saying he has been a model prisoner with no infractions.
Galanter said that at a 2013 hearing Simpson received parole for some of his charges, including the armed robbery conviction. The parole hearing on Thursday covers the remaining counts.
The state parole board bases its decisions on points an inmate has accumulated for behavior in prison.
“Here, if you’re a model prisoner, you behave yourself, you’re not a flight risk, you get paroled,” Galanter told The News on Sunday.