A federal bankruptcy judge Monday awarded the rights to O.J. Simpson's canceled "If I Did It" book to murder victim Ronald Goldman's family, who say they want to release the book to portray Simpson as a murderer and wife beater.
The decision by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge A. Jay Cristol to satisfy a $38 million wrongful death judgment against the former football star ignored complaints from the family of Simpson's murdered ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, who was slain along with her friend Goldman in a brutal 1994 knife attack.
Lawyers for the Brown family had sought a greater share of possible profits from the book.
Simpson was acquitted in a highly-publicized 1995 murder trial but lost civil lawsuits to the Goldman and Brown families.
On Monday, Fred Goldman, Ronald Goldman's father, said he intends to release the book as a measure of justice to portray Simpson as "a wife-beater, as a murderer, written in his own words."
"I guess the bottom line is, after 13 years of trying to get some justice, today is probably the first time we had any sense of seeing light at the end of the tunnel," said Goldman, who attended the hearing with his daughter, Kim. "It's gratifying to see."
Simpson has maintained his innocence and insisted that most of the "If I Did It" manuscript was penned by a ghostwriter without his involvement. Simpson was paid about $630,000 even though the book was canceled last year amid intense public outcry.
The book wound up in a Miami court after a corporation headed by Simpson's eldest daughter, Arnelle, filed for bankruptcy shortly after a judge in California ordered the rights sold to benefit the Goldmans. The corporation — Lorraine Brooke Associates — had negotiated the book deal with Harper Collins, with the Simpson children as its main shareholders.
Cristol found that the corporation was essentially a fraud to hide the involvement of Simpson himself, making the Goldmans the chief creditor on the book rights.
Lawyers for Brown's father, Louis Brown, objected to a settlement awarding the rights to Goldman. They wanted Cristol to give equal rights to all the creditors, rather than allowing the Goldmans to collect the lion's share of any profits from the book.
"It allows the Goldmans to recover at the expense of the Browns," said Brown attorney Stephen Rakusin.
The Browns won a $24 million wrongful death case against Simpson but only got involved in the bankruptcy case in the 11th hour.
Under the settlement, the Browns will get a chunk of the first 10 percent of gross proceeds from the book, with the Goldmans getting the rest. But the Goldmans also will have to bear such costs as finding a publisher and marketing the book.
Cristol said he regretted that the case had produced such animosity between the families.
"They're both the victims of a horrible tragedy. It's sad they would be reduced to quibbling with each other instead of working together," the judge said.
Goldman said he has no plans to alter any of the Simpson manuscript, which describes how the slayings might have been committed and discusses at length Simpson's relationship with his ex-wife. But Goldman said the family may add a prologue or other "enhancements" to what was already written.
"We are certain we will honor Ron and Nicole's memory," Goldman said.
It remains uncertain exactly how profitable such a venture might be. Goldman attorney David Cook said discussions were ongoing with literary agents, publishing houses and movie studios about the project, but none of the Goldman lawyers would provide details.
"We're very confident," Cook said of the book's prospects. "We will do our level best. Only time will tell."