LAS VEGAS - Shackled, shaking and wearing a jail-issued blue jumpsuit, O.J. Simpson learned yesterday how long he'll serve in prison: at least nine years.
Despite an emotional apology from Simpson, a judge said the former NFL star's actions during an armed confrontation last year showed "more than stupidity" as she slapped him with up to 33 years in prison.
Simpson will be 70 when he's eligible for parole.
"I realize I was stupid, and I'm sorry," Simpson said in court, his voice breaking. "I didn't know I was doing anything illegal."
But District Judge Jackie Glass, a no-nonsense jurist, was unmoved, saying, "I have to tell you, it was much more than stupidity."
Simpson's codefendant and former golfing buddy, C.J. Stewart, a Las Vegas mortgage broker, will serve 71/2 to 27 years in prison.
Prosecutors told the judge Stewart was "less culpable" than Simpson in the September 2007 incident at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino.
Simpson, a Hall of Fame running back who later starred in movies and commercials, moved to Florida several years after his 1995 acquittal in the double murder of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
In 1997, Simpson was found liable for the deaths in a civil suit and was ordered to pay $33.5 million to the victims' relatives.
Goldman's father and mother were sitting in the courtroom during yesterday's sentencing. Afterward, Fred Goldman spoke to reporters.
"What we've got is satisfaction that this monster is finally behind bars," Goldman said. "There is never closure. Ron is always gone."
The judge said several times that her sentence in the Las Vegas case had nothing to do with Simpson's 1995 acquittal.
"I'm not here to try and cause any retribution or any payback for anything else," Glass said.
But in Los Angeles, the city where Simpson walked free in a celebrated murder trial, some residents told the Associated Press justice finally was served.
"I think he got what he deserved," said Greg Wheatley, 32, of Los Angeles, at Universal CityWalk. "You do things, and you've got to expect karma to come around."
Simpson, 61, and Stewart, 54, who have been jailed since a jury found them guilty on Oct. 3, will begin their sentences immediately. Glass denied motions from defense attorneys to release the men pending their appeals to the Nevada Supreme Court.
"I believe they're both flight risks," Glass said.
Parole is not guaranteed, and prosecutors said they expect Simpson and Stewart will serve more than their minimum sentences.
Simpson spoke in court for several minutes, explaining what led him to confront two dealers in sports memorabilia at an off-the-Strip hotel. He said he hoped to retrieve autographed footballs and other items he believed were taken from him by his former manager.
"I came here for a wedding; I didn't come here to reclaim property. I was told it was here," Simpson said. "This was the first time I had the opportunity to catch these guys red-handed who had been stealing from my family."
A jury convicted Simpson and Stewart of all 12 charges they faced stemming from the confrontation in the hotel room. The verdict came after 13 days of testimony from two dozen witnesses and an audio recording of the incident.
"Don't let nobody out of this room!" Simpson is heard yelling on the recording.
Glass said the recording was damning.
"It was actually a very violent event. At least one gun was drawn," Glass said. "The potential for harm to occur in that room was tremendous."
Four men who were present in the hotel room with Simpson and Stewart accepted plea deals in exchange for their testimony. One told jurors Simpson asked him to bring a gun to the encounter.
The convictions were the first for Simpson and Stewart, whose attorneys argued that their clients were not hardened criminals and deserved lenient prison terms.
"My client's acts were beyond stupid, really stupid, and I make no bones about it," Yale Galanter, Simpson's attorney, said in court. "But stupidity is not criminality."