LOS ANGELES (AP) — For years, Fred Goldman was adamant that he would never rest until he had held O.J. Simpson accountable for the killings of his son Ron and Simpson’s ex-wife 20 years ago — even if a jury had acquitted the former football star.
After the trial, Goldman joined with the family of Simpson’s ex-wife in winning a $33.5 million wrongful death judgment in civil court. Then he began to seize anything of Simpson’s he could get his hands on. He took furniture, sports trophies, even the royalties to Simpson’s movies.
In the end, Goldman’s relentless pursuit helped put Simpson in prison — but not for murder. Simpson pulled a hotel-room stickup in Las Vegas in 2007 to recover his sports memorabilia before Goldman could get it, an act that landed him in prison for as long as 33 years.
“We had to find a way to punish him and, if forcing him to give up things, forcing him to constantly be looking over his shoulder was going to cause him some pain, duress, then so be it,” Goldman said recently from his home in Arizona.
“It’s not the kind of punishment I would have wanted,” he said. “He should have had a needle stuck in his arm.”
Today the sports star once affectionately known as “The Juice” sits in a Nevada prison. At age 66, he’s destitute, his Florida home was recently sold at auction and he won’t be eligible for parole for three years.
At his sentencing, the judge called him arrogant and stupid and said it was clear from a recording Simpson didn’t know was being made that he was trying to keep his things from the Goldmans. “You were heard on the tape making reference to them as the gold diggers,” said Judge Jackie Glass.
Ten years ago, Simpson told The Associated Press that he felt no obligation to pay the judgment because he did not commit the murders.
Goldman and his daughter, Kim, meanwhile, say they have begun to move on from a tragedy that for a time seemed to define their lives.
“You know what? I guess the answer would be we’re doing well,” said Goldman, 73, who moved from Los Angeles to Arizona several years ago and works in retail sales. “Our lives are a new and different normal now ... But you find a way somehow or other to adjust to the pain, to the anger, to the loss.”
Ron Goldman, who was friends with Nicole Simpson, offered to return a pair of glasses her mother left behind at a restaurant where he was a waiter. When he went to drop them off after work, he was killed along with her outside her home.
Kim Goldman, 42, published a memoir last month titled “Can’t Forgive: My 20-Year Battle With O.J. Simpson.”
But she too said she has moved on and has found joy these days in being the team mom to her 10-year-old son’s basketball team and in counseling troubled teens in her job as executive director of the nonprofit The Youth Project.
“Even though we are on TV, we’re still just normal people who had a tragedy in their life,” she said recently as she sat in the living room of the comfortable, two-story home she shares with her son in a picturesque suburb of rolling hills north of Los Angeles. “It just happened to play out on television.”
Indeed it did.
Instead of surrendering to authorities on murder charges, Simpson tried to flee in a white Ford Bronco after the killings, leading police on a 60-mile, slow-speed chase across Southern California freeways that was broadcast nationally. That was followed by a trial that lasted nine months, all of it broadcast on television, making overnight celebrities of lawyers turned commentators.
Simpson used his fortune to assemble a group of high-paid defense lawyers dubbed the “Dream Team.” Prosecutors introduced DNA evidence linking him to the murder scene, but his lawyers contended it was planted by a racist white police officer to convict the black football hero. He was acquitted by a jury that deliberated less than a day.
Simpson has steadfastly maintained that he did not commit the murders.
Kim Goldman broke down sobbing in disbelief at the not guilty verdict. Her older brother was her hero, the one who had pulled her, badly injured, from a car crash when she was just a kid.
So the role she and her father’s relentless pursuit played in sending Simpson to prison for the hotel-room heist gives her some solace now, she said, in the thought that they did everything they could for her brother.
Once she’d had an opportunity to do far worse. By chance she saw Simpson crossing a Los Angeles parking lot three years after her brother’s murder. She briefly considered running him over but couldn’t do it.
“That’s not me,” she said quietly, her bright green-brown eyes looking down at her coffee table.
Still, even if she’ll never forgive Simpson, she insisted she has moved on.
“Not forgiving someone for an unspeakable act doesn’t debilitate you,” she said. “It doesn’t make your heart dark. And I’m not living a less-than life because I choose to have appropriate anger for a killer.”