Just a month before his release from a Nevada prison, it's still not clear whether O.J. Simpson will move to the Tampa Bay area.
This week, The New York Post cited an unnamed O.J. Simpson "insider" as saying that Simpson's family had purchased a house for him in a gated community in St. Petersburg.
Records hinted that the former NFL star and convicted felon might start life as a free man again in the gated Pasadena Yacht and Country Club.
The country club is not in St. Petersburg but it is near that city, it is gated and a house recently sold there. The Pinellas County property appraiser's web site shows the sale date and price but has redacted all other information that normally is public record.
But a woman who called the Tampa Bay Times after it posted a story Thursday said she and her husband bought the house and have no connection to Simpson or his family. She said they are eligible under state law to have a "protected address,'' which their real estate agent, Clint Mayo, confirmed.
"My customers told me they are absolutely not in any way affiliated with O.J. or any part of his family and they are eligible for protection and filed paperwork to do that,'' Mayo said.
Simpson, 70, has served nine years for armed robbery and was granted parole in July. He's eligible to be released from Lovelock Correctional Center as soon as October 1.
At his hearing, Simpson told the parole board that he planned to return to Florida upon release, but didn't specify where in the state. Simpson lived in Miami at the time of his robbery conviction, but lost the house he owned there to foreclosure.
Two of Simpson's grown children — Justin Simpson, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent, and Sydney Simpson, a real estate investor — live in St. Petersburg, bolstering speculation that he may be planning to settle in the Tampa Bay area.
On Aug. 17, Simpson's daughter Sydney posted a photograph to Facebook of a pool in a waterfront home in St. Petersburg's Jungle Terrace area with the caption, "This'll work," leading to some speculation that house could be a possible residence for her father. That home is not listed for sale, and the owners have not responded to phone calls.
In July, Simpson's friend Tom Scotto told the Naples Daily News that Simpson could move into his home in East Naples.
Simpson's Nevada attorney Malcolm LaVergne would not confirm that Simpson was moving to St. Petersburg.
"He is definitely coming to Florida — but look at the map, it's a big state," LaVergne said. "I'm not familiar with St. Petersburg, and I don't know anything about St. Petersburg."
Regardless of where Simpson lands in Florida, the house likely would have to be purchased in his name in order for him to get a homestead exemption. And it's unlikely he could get a "protected address,'' as the new owners of the Gulfport house did.
Among those eligible for protection are victims of violent crimes, law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors and other government employee whose safety might be in jeopardy.
"I don't believe someone with just notoriety would qualify,'' Alexander Luca, staff counsel for the property appraiser's office, said Thursday.
Many well-known people have established residency in Florida because of state laws that shield homesteads and certain assets from being seized to satisfy debts. Simpson, who could receive an NFL pension of around $25,000 a month on his release, still owes most of the $33.5 million that a California jury ordered him to pay to the families of slain ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. Simpson was acquitted of their deaths in the 1995 "trial of the century" but found liable in civil court.
The Florida Department of Corrections told the Times it has yet to receive the required transfer request from Nevada's Division of Parole and Probation. Any such request would have to include Simpson's planned Florida address, but he could not move there unless the corrections department first investigated the place and anyone he planned to live with. Upon receiving a transfer request, Florida would have up to 45 days to approve it.
Under the rules that govern interstate transfers of parolees, Simpson is eligible for a transfer to Florida if he is considered a Florida resident — he has lived in Miami — or if family members who reside in the state indicate a willingness to assist in his supervision.
If Nevada submitted an approved plan, Simpson would be responsible for traveling to Florida on his own.
The conditions of Simpson's parole would not allow him to change addresses or leave the state without permission, possess any weapons or associate with any convicted felons. He would have to report in person to the Division of Parole and Probation and submit a written report each month. Simpson is allowed to consume alcohol, "but not to excess," according to the parole board's order.
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Contact Christopher Spata at (727-893-8719). Follow @susanskate follow @spatatimes