- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2008

There was no exhaustive coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial this time.

There was no cheering or jeering along racial lines following the conviction and sentencing of Simpson.

There was mostly indifference to Simpson, whose acquittal in the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman produced antithetical reactions in white and black America 13 years ago.

That was the Simpson who was said to symbolize the racial divide.

This was the irrelevant Simpson who symbolized nothing, the Simpson who no longer mattered, the Simpson who frittered it all away: the money, the social status and finally his freedom.

His inexorable fall became complete in a Las Vegas courtroom last week when a judge sentenced the former football star, pitchman and broadcaster to 33 years in prison for his role in a bizarre robbery last year involving two sports memorabilia dealers who, Simpson claimed, had stolen personal items from him.

Simpson, pending his appeal, will not be eligible for parole until serving at least nine years of his sentence.

It is possible the penalty is a life sentence for Simpson, who is 61 years old. It is possible he never will step foot on a golf course again. It is possible his last home will be a 78-square-foot cell in the Nevada desert.

If so, more than a few might claim that it is an appropriate end for someone who seemingly beat the system and then mocked it, most blatantly with his decision to pen a book in 2006 titled “If I Did It.”

Fred Goldman, the father who lost a son in horrific fashion, took a measure of solace in the sentencing.

“It was satisfying seeing him in shackles like he belongs,” he said.

We probably will never know what prompted Simpson to think it was a good idea to play the heavy with five buddies, even if, as he claimed, the items were rightfully his.

Given his past, Simpson should have thought it unwise to jaywalk anywhere in America.

But perhaps Simpson thought he could dodge the laws that govern the rest of us. Perhaps he thought his celebrity would mesmerize another jury.

In a rambling speech to the judge, he apologized for his actions but still insisted he had done no wrong.

It was all kind of anticlimactic, kind of pathetic, with this once-bright star reduced to groveling to a no-nonsense judge.

And America yawned.

America moved past Simpson long ago, even while he seemed stuck in place, forever fighting the Goldman family and trying to preserve what was left of his financial portfolio.

Whenever he made news over the years - and it was never flattering - he would be relegated to the inside pages of the newspaper. He had become an anecdote, a punch line, an artifact from the last century.

Simpson no longer could inflame a nation’s passion, as he had done in 1995. He no longer was a symbol of how two races judged the inequities of the justice system. He had become a sad figure just playing out his remaining years as a social pariah.

He was free, but only in a sense. He never could be free from 1995. He never could be what he once was - the affable personality who transcended race long before Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods came along. That had to haunt him late at night when he was alone with his thoughts.

It is funny how it works. Simpson beat a double-murder rap 13 years ago. Now he is going to prison over what amounts to a petty dispute in which no one was harmed.

“I’m sorry,” Simpson said, choking back tears. “I’m sorry for all of it.”

He will have plenty of time to look back on a life filled with regrets.