When O.J. Simpson stood trial and was eventually acquitted for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, a large part of the prosecution's case focused on what they claimed was a pattern of escalating domestic violence in the Simpson marriage. Although he denied abusing Brown Simpson during his civil trial, O.J. Simpson was arrested for domestic abuse for an incident that occurred on Jan. 1, 1989, which was serious enough that Brown Simpson had to seek medical attention at a hospital. But, what was Simpson's sentence for the domestic violence charge? Given the severity of the crime, he didn't face many legal consequences.
As reported by The Los Angeles Times, the New Year's Day incident wasn't the first time police had been called to the couple's residence. According to an arrest report, Simpson told responding officers: "The police have been out here eight times before, and now you're going to arrest me for this? This is a family matter. Why do you want to make a big deal out of it when we can handle it?" The officers also reported that Brown Simpson, who was visibly bruised and scratched, repeatedly stated, "he's going to kill me." She also echoed her then-husband's assertion that police had been called many times, telling them that, "You never do anything about him. You talk to him and then leave."
The report includes a number of disturbing details — for example, Simpson allegedly slapped his wife so hard that a handprint was left on her neck. According to the same Los Angeles Times article, Simpson told police that the physical altercation had been "mutual" and it had occurred after both of them had been drinking. While officers spoke to Brown Simpson, he slipped out of the home and drove away. It's unclear when exactly Simpson was arrested.
Four months later, Simpson plead no contest to a spousal abuse charge, as reported by The New York Times, though in 1994 he said in a letter read by Robert Kardashian, "I took the heat New Year's 1989 because that's what I was supposed to do. I did not plead no contest for any other reason but to protect our privacy, and was advised it would end the press hype." The prosecutor in the spousal abuse case, Deputy City Attorney Robert Pingle, requested that Simpson spend 30 days in jail and complete an intensive yearlong program for men who abuse their wives. Instead, a municipal judge sentenced Simpson to 120 hours of community service and two years of probation. And, in place of the suggested yearlong program, Simpson was allowed to undergo counseling with a psychiatrist he selected himself. He was also allowed to choose his own community service assignment, much to Pingle's anger. After Brown Simpson's murder, Pingle recalled his reaction to the domestic abuse sentence:
"I really started yelling... I remember telling the judge, 'It's not up to Mr. Simpson to decide. It's all part of his job. We're not here to have him do what's part of his job.' Then O.J. Simpson decided to start talking. He was really upset, saying he doesn't know why he had to do this, that he had done more community service, more charity work, than everyone in the courthouse combined."
Although The New York Times noted that Simpson may have been given preferential treatment due to his celebrity status, the unfortunate truth is that most men don't spend any time in jail for abusing their partners. Lucy Friedman, the executive director for the nonprofit Victims Services in New York City, told the outlet that jail sentences were rare among batterers: "It's still not considered as serious a crime as battering on the street, and many women are reluctant to pursue it forcefully." Either way, Simpson's sentence was apparently light considering the severity of the incident.