- Feb 2, 2006
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An update on him...
Attorney: Suspect healthier
Former NFL kicker recovering from schizophrenia, defender says
By GLENN PUIT
Cole Ford, a suspect in a shooting incident, appears in court in Las Vegas in 2004.
Cole Ford appears to be a changed man.
The former kicker for the Oakland Raiders, who stands charged with shooting a gun at the home of Siegfried & Roy in 2004, appeared in court Tuesday, cleanshaven and with his hair closely cropped. In prior court appearances, Ford was wild-eyed, and his hair and beard were long and unkempt.
Ford is in the midst of a recovery from paranoid schizophrenia thanks to a regimen of anti-psychotic medications given to him at a state facility, said Ford's defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Daren Richards.
"Look at him!" Richards said. "I didn't cut his hair and clean him up. That's all him. He's a totally different person.
"It shows that in most cases, schizophrenia can be treated."
Clark County prosecutor Frank Coumou confirmed late Tuesday that prosecutors are working on a plea agreement for Ford. It is expected to allow Ford to avoid jail time if he pleads guilty and complies with all of the terms of his probation, Coumou said.
He said he wants to make sure that if Ford is granted probation, he will be monitored closely and will have to continue to take his medication.
Ford had played for the University of Southern California football team and then for the Raiders. In his first year in the National Football League, he made eight of nine field goal attempts.
The following year, he made 77 percent of his field goals but missed a crucial kick in Tampa Bay as the Raiders were trying to make the playoffs.
In 1997, his performance on the football field turned poor, and he made only 59 percent of his kicks. He was cut the following year, and Ford's relatives started noticing changes.
"After Cole's release from the Oakland Raiders Football team, he became more and more reclusive and started showing signs of schizophrenic behavior," according to a statement from Ford's family. "From 1997 to 1999 our family had very little contact with him. After 1999, Cole disappeared from our lives despite many efforts and attempts to contact or find him."
He ended up living out of a van in Las Vegas. In 2004, authorities said he fired a shotgun at the home of longtime Strip headliners Siegfried & Roy. A witness told police that the gunman yelled that the entertainers should get out of the country.
In a psychiatric examination after his arrest, Ford said he believed in a global conspiracy involving his father, Siegfried & Roy, and the spread of disease, according to a psychiatric evaluation report.
"While watching Siegfried and Roy, he had a sudden realization that what was wrong with the world was linked to the illusionists' treatment, dominance and unhealthy intimacy he saw them having with their animals," psychiatrist Norton Roitman wrote in the report. "He saw their illusions as their power to distort and change reality. He felt they threatened (the) world, and he began trying to figure out how he could stop them."
District Judge Jackie Glass deemed Ford incompetent to stand trial, and he was sent to Lakes Crossing, a state facility for the mentally ill charged with a crime.
He was given psychotropic medications and eventually deemed competent to stand trial.
The prospect of Ford pursuing a not guilty by reason of insanity defense has been a possibility. Defense attorneys would have to show Ford could not distinguish that what he was doing was wrong at the time of the crime.
"Any involvement he had in this was clearly due to his mental illness," Richards said.
In court Tuesday, Ford appeared calm and lucid.
District Judge Jackie Glass, who has since deemed Ford competent, complimented the defendant on his turnaround.
"You look great," Glass said. "Keep up the good work."