LAS VEGAS -
This was not the O.J. Simpson of old.
His wrists shackled, eyes reddened and husky voice cracking, the fallen football star - who famously was acquitted of double murder in Los Angeles - was sentenced yesterday to up to 33 years in prison for robbing a pair of memorabilia dealers. He will be eligible for parole in nine years.
Surprising even Judge Jackie Glass, Simpson delivered a tearful, five-minute apology to a packed Las Vegas courtroom.
"I didn't mean to steal anything from anybody. ... I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all of it," Simpson said, a moment that may have marked the end of a saga that has gripped the nation for years: Simpson's journey from gridiron hero to social pariah after the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. A civil jury in 1997 found Simpson liable in their slayings.
Simpson, 61, told the judge that he went to a down-market Las Vegas hotel on Sept. 13, 2007, to recover family heirlooms - including his slain ex-wife's wedding ring - to pass down to his children.
"This was the first time I had an opportunity to catch the guys red-handed who had been stealing from my family," said the NFL Hall of Fame running back, dressed in navy jail garb, his hair graying at the temples.
"In no way did I mean to hurt anybody, to steal anything from anybody. I just wanted my personal things," he said. When Simpson finished, his shoulders slumped and his face fell.
Afterward, outside the courtroom, Fred Goldman, Ronald Goldman's father, said there is no closure.
"Ron is always gone. What we have is satisfaction that this monster is where he belongs."
Simpson's broken demeanor and words of regret yesterday capped a trial that had stripped him of much of his remaining sheen.
The former Heisman Trophy winner, Hertz rent-a-car pitchman and sports commentator was accused of leading a ragtag band of men - two carrying handguns - to confront dealers hawking mementos from him and other sports stars.
District Attorney David Roger told reporters yesterday that he twice had offered Simpson and codefendant Clarence Stewart a plea deal - once during the trial - but "Mr. Simpson wanted something just short of a public apology." His sentence, Roger said, is lengthier than what prosecutors had proposed.
Stewart will serve at least 7 1/2 years, with a maximum sentence of 27 years.
Simpson, who is planning an appeal, will be eligible for parole in 2017.