AP Exclusive: OJ Simpson says 'Life is fine' after prison

FILE - In this June 17, 1994, file photo, a white Ford Bronco, driven by Al Cowlings carrying O.J. Simpson, is trailed by Los Angeles police cars as it travels on a freeway in Los Angeles. Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman were found stabbed to death outside her LA home. Simpson is later arrested after a widely televised freeway chase in the vehicle. (AP Photo/Joseph Villarin, File)

AP Exclusive: OJ Simpson living a good life in Las Vegas 25 years after killings and Trial of the Century' transfixed and divided nation

LOS ANGELES — After 25 years living under the shadow of one of the nation's most notorious murder cases, O.J. Simpson says his life has entered a phase he calls the "no negative zone."

In a telephone interview, the 71-year-old Simpson told The Associated Press he is healthy and happy living in Las Vegas. And neither he nor his children want to look back by talking about June 12, 1994 , when his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were stabbed to death and Simpson was transformed from Hall of Fame football hero to murder suspect.

"We don't need to go back and relive the worst day of our lives," he said. "The subject of the moment is the subject I will never revisit again. My family and I have moved on to what we call the 'no negative zone.' We focus on the positives."

Simpson lives a relatively low-key life these days. He plays golf nearly every day. The knees that helped him run to football glory at the University of Southern California and with the NFL's Buffalo Bills have been replaced, and he recently had Lasik surgery on his eyes. He said he remains close to his children and other relatives.

"Life is fine," he said.

Relatives of Simpson's ex-wife and Goldman are disgusted Simpson is able to live the way he does while their loved ones had their lives cut short so tragically.

"I don't suffocate in my grief," Goldman's sister, Kim, told the AP in an interview last week. "But every milestone that my kid hits, every milestone that I hit, you know, those are just reminders of what I'm not able to share with my brother and what he is missing out on."

She wonders if Simpson is following conditions of his parole.

"Yeah, I hear he's living the life of Riley out there in Las Vegas, being treated like a king," Goldman said sarcastically. But she added she rarely thinks of him unless someone else brings up his name.

Ron Goldman, then 25, was returning a pair of sunglasses that Nicole Brown Simpson's mother had left at a restaurant where he worked when he and Simpson's ex-wife were stabbed and slashed dozens of times.

O.J. Simpson's televised "Trial of the Century" lasted nearly a year and became a national obsession, fraught with issues of racism, police misconduct, celebrity and domestic violence.

Represented by a legal "Dream Team" that included Johnnie Cochran Jr. and F. Lee Bailey, he was acquitted by a jury in 1995 in a verdict that split the country along racial lines, with many white Americans believing he got away with murder and many black people considering him innocent.

He has continued to declare his innocence. The murder case is officially listed as unsolved.

The victims' families subsequently filed a civil suit against him, and in 1997 he was ordered to pay $33.5 million for the wrongful deaths of his ex-wife and Goldman. Some of his property was seized and auctioned, but most of the judgment has not been paid.

For a man who once lived for the spotlight , Simpson has generally kept a low profile since his release from prison in October 2017 after serving nine years for a robbery and kidnapping conviction in Las Vegas. He insisted his conviction and sentence for trying to steal back his own memorabilia were unfair but said: "I believe in the legal system and I honored it. I served my time."

After he got out of prison in Nevada, many expected him to return to Florida, where he had lived for several years. But friends in Las Vegas persuaded him to stay there.

"The town has been good to me," Simpson said. "Everybody I meet seems to be apologizing for what happened to me here."

His time in the city hasn't been without controversy. A month after his release, an outing to a steakhouse and lounge off the Las Vegas Strip ended in a dispute. Simpson was ordered off the property and barred from returning.

No such problems have occurred since, and Simpson is among the most sought-after figures in town for selfies with those who encounter him at restaurants or athletic events he attends occasionally.

His parole officer has given him permission to take short trips, including to Florida, where his two younger children, Justin and Sydney, have built careers in real estate. His older daughter, Arnelle, lives with him much of the time.

He also visited relatives in Louisiana, he said, and spoke to a group of black judges and prosecutors in New Orleans.

Simpson said the glamor of his early life is just a memory.

After his football career, Simpson became a commercial pitchman, actor and football commentator. Once a multimillionaire, he said most of his fortune was spent defending himself from the murder charges.

Simpson declined to discuss his finances other than to say he lives on pensions.

To coincide with Wednesday's anniversary, Kim Goldman will launch a 10-week podcast, "Confronting: O.J. Simpson," in which she will interview her brother's friends, the detective who investigated the killings, attorneys for the defense and prosecution, and two of the 12 jurors who acquitted Simpson.

She will continue to make the case that Simpson was guilty.

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Linda Deutsch is a retired special correspondent for The Associated Press. She covered all of Simpson's legal cases during her 48-year career as a Los Angeles-based trial reporter.

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