- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2000

O.J. Simpson crawled out from under his rock yesterday to appear on NBC's "Today" show with Katie Couric.

Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. He has spent the years since then pursuing the real killer or killers on various golf courses around the country.

"When things have settled a bit, I will pursue as my primary goal in life the killer or killers who slaughtered Nicole and Mr. Goldman," Simpson said on the day of his acquittal. "They are out there somewhere. Whatever it takes to identify them and bring them in, I will provide somehow."

Unfortunately, things have changed in five years.

Simpson's primary goal in life now is to not pay the $33.5 million to the families of the victims, the figure reached in civil court in 1997.

"I will never pay any dime of that verdict," Simpson told Couric.

Simpson is a man of uncompromising principle.

Not a dime.

"I didn't commit this crime," he said. "I don't believe I owe anything."

Go, O.J., go.

Simpson is left with his struggle to find the real killer or killers, doing what he can. He goes to the golf course, where he sifts for clues in bunkers and checks to see who is standing behind the trees.

The search helps his golf scores. But it has not produced a suspect so far.

Simpson claims not to have the funds to launch a full investigation. This must be frustrating.

As far as anyone knows, he has been unable to fly to Bogota, Colombia, to interview the golf-playing members of the drug cartel there. They were first mentioned as possible suspects during his criminal trial.

Simpson is stuck between an ongoing investigation and a $33.5 million debt.

It seems his only hope to clear his name is to bump into one of the golf-playing members of the Colombian cartel on one of the courses he frequents.

At least Simpson is not destitute. He said he is living off his $25,000-a-month pension from the NFL, which, under federal law, cannot be garnished by the families.

Otherwise, out of principle, he is reluctant to find work. He used to race through airports, appear in bad movies and talk a good game each football Sunday in the fall. Now he takes pictures of suspicious-looking spike marks on greens.

"If I had to work to fund what I believe is a wrong decision, I probably would not work," he said.

Simpson announced last month that he would take a lie-detector test in exchange for $3 million. The money, he said, would be used as a bounty to find the real killer or killers.

The offer is still good, he told Couric, and if Don King is taking notes, the pay-per-view possibilities are intriguing.

Simpson said he receives information from investigators who donate their time to his case. Because it is an ongoing investigation, Simpson, like a pro, refused to comment on the particulars, either Colombia or golf.

Simpson made this rare public appearance to publicize the opening of his Web site tomorrow. Simpson is inviting his fans and supporters to chat with him at www.askoj.com. He plans to take it one question at a time, except those questions that involve his children.

As you already know, if it doesn't fit, you must acquit, and as for the $33.5 million debt, it is the principle of the thing.

The question-and-answer session is certain to be illuminating.

Question: Have you ever killed anyone?

Simpson: No.

Meanwhile, the investigation lumbers forward.

"I can only hope that someday, despite every prejudicial thing that has been said about me publicly, both in and out of the courtroom, people will come to understand and believe that I would not, could not and did not kill anyone," Simpson said on the day of his acquittal.

Simpson, armed with a golf club as he studies pin placements and gathers evidence, is sticking by his conviction that they are still "out there somewhere."

Go ahead, just ask O.J.

You have to be kidding.

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