(Corrects to ex-wife in 1st paragraph)
By Jane Sutton
MIAMI (Reuters) - Rights to O.J. Simpson’s book “If I Did It,” a hypothetical account of how he could have killed his ex-wife, on Monday passed to relatives of Ron Goldman, who was murdered along with Nicole Brown Simpson in 1994.
A federal judge approved the relatives’ settlement with a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, giving them the rights to the book. Plans for its publication last year prompted a torrent of outrage.
Lawyers for the Goldmans said they would seek to capitalize on the book by arranging new publishing, film or TV deals to help satisfy a $33.5 million wrongful death judgment won by the family against Simpson in 1997.
The book was billed as a hypothetical account of how the former football star, acquitted of murder charges in 1995 but found responsible in a later civil case, could have carried out the slayings of Nicole and her friend, Goldman.
News Corp.-owned publishing house, HarperCollins, scrapped the book in November before its planned release.
Goldman’s father, Fred Goldman, originally joined in condemning “If I Did It” as the shameful exploitation of his son’s murder but has since waged a campaign to collect any money generated by the book. He said he now views the book as “an indictment of a wife-beater, of a murderer, written in his own words.”
Simpson was acquitted of criminal charges at the end of a sensational murder trial in 1995 but was found liable for the deaths of his ex-wife and Goldman two years later in a civil case brought by the victims’ families. He has vowed to never voluntarily pay the damages rendered against him.
Fred Goldman wept and held the hand of his daughter, Kim Goldman, during Monday’s hearing. “After 13 years of trying to get some justice for Ron, today’s the first time that we had any sense of seeing some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said afterward.
Earlier this year, a California judge ordered rights to his book put up for public bidding to benefit the Goldmans’ claims.
The auction was canceled in April when Lorraine Brooke Associates, a company set up in the name of Simpson’s children to collect his reported $1 million book advance, declared bankruptcy in Miami.
However, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jay Cristol ruled in June that Lorraine Brooke Associates was a shell company formed to conceal Simpson’s book earnings from the Goldmans, paving the way for them to pursue their claim.
Under the settlement hammered out by lawyers earlier this month and approved by Cristol on Monday, the Goldmans obtained all rights to the book, and to Simpson’s name and likeness in connection with it.
Those rights will now be held in the name of Ron Goldman LLC, a new entity that “will market the book under the true crime genre,” family lawyer David Cook told Reuters.
Cook said he had received several inquiries about the book from literary agents in recent weeks, and the Goldmans were considering changing the title to “I Did It,” or possibly “Confessions of a Double Murderer.”
Relatives of Simpson’s ex-wife, who had not previously pursued a claim to his book, made an 11th-hour request for up to 40 percent of the proceeds but the judge denied their plea.
However Monday’s agreement requires the Goldmans to give a court-appointed trustee 10 percent of the first $4 million in gross proceeds and a percentage of all proceeds beyond that. The Brown family will get most of that money.