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OJ Simpson had a night out in downtown St. Petersburg

O.J. Simpson reacts after learning he would be granted parole, at a hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada, July 20, 2017. [Jason Bean | Pool via The New York Times]
Published Nov. 22, 2018

Yes, that was O.J. Simpson hanging out in downtown St. Petersburg on Tuesday night, but no, that doesn't mean he's moved back to Florida or has any immediate plans to.

Simpson was spotted out on Beach Drive and at the downtown jazz club Ruby's Elixir, reigniting rumors that he'd moved to the city to be close to his grown children who live in the area.

St. Petersburg resident Paul Brown was having an anniversary dinner with his wife at Cassis on Beach Drive when he was surprised to see Simpson walk by in a group with five or six other people.

"I said, 'Hey, O.J.!' and he said 'Hi, how are you?'," Brown said. "I was the only one who said anything to him, everyone was kind of very quiet, but after he was gone we all looked at each other like 'wow'. ... I wish I'd taken a picture now."

Later Brown went to an art gallery and says he was told O.J. had been by there too.

And, of course, there were social media posts. One guy posted a public Facebook photo with Simpson with the location tagged Oak & Stone, the new downtown pizza restaurant. Barbara Gray, who is visiting St. Petersburg from Alabama, posted photos of a smiling Simpson from the Canopy rooftop bar at the Birchwood.

"He took selfies with anyone who asked," she said. "I didn't want one but he knew people were taking photos of him."

An employee at Stillwaters Tavern wrote on Twitter that, "uhhh oj simpson just walked down the street at my work." She told the Times later that it was just before closing time.

After that, a singer performing at Ruby's Elixir posted a selfie with Simpson, but deleted it after attracting unwanted attention, according to Creative Loafing.

It appears Simpson, the Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL star who was acquitted of his ex wife's murder in the "trial of the century" is just in town for the Thanksgiving holiday. Simpson was released on parole in July 2017 after serving nearly nine years for convictions related to the armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in Las Vegas.

The Nevada Department of Corrections granted Simpson an out of state travel permit for Nov. 17 to 24, which means he'll have to return to Nevada, where he has been living, by Sunday, Patrick Manderfield, Press Secretary for the Florida Department of Corrections said via email.

"While in Florida, Mr. Simpson is required to adhere to his parole conditions and remain in contact with his parole officer in Nevada."

He said the Florida Department of Corrections was briefed on Simpson's travel plans, "and will assist with any supervision needed during his stay ... ." Among the conditions of Simpson's parole are that he not drink alcohol "to excess."

Simpson's son Justin Simpson is a Realtor in St. Petersburg. His daughter Sydney also lives in the area, and has invested in properties here.

After Simpson was released there was speculation he might move to Florida.

Simpson's lawyer Malcolm LaVergne said today that his client is a permanent resident of Nevada and has no plans to move right now. Simpson has been photographed out in public frequently in and around Las Vegas since his release.

"He's just a regular citizen enjoying his family," LaVergne said. "I'm not going to confirm where he is, or his travel plans, but I will say that wherever he is, there's a security protocol in place. If someone tries to mess with him, or set him up, they'll end up with a mug shot in the paper."

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi released a statement in September 2017 asking that Florida's Department of Corrections block Simpson from moving to the state, saying "Our state should not become a country club for this convicted criminal," however, under the rules of the Interstate Compact that governs parolee transfers, it appears there would be little stopping Simpson from moving to the Sunshine State if he requested it.

Contact Christopher Spata at cspata@tampabay.com or follow @SpataTimes on Twitter.

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