LAS VEGAS – Groomed and polite, a former NFL kicker who has been hospitalized for mental illness pleaded guilty Thursday to shooting at the home of entertainers Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn in 2004.
Cole Ford, who last kicked for the Oakland Raiders in 1997, agreed to a felony plea that could result in a suspended sentence of one to six years in a Nevada prison if he continues mental-health treatment at a center near his family's home in Tucson, Ariz.
"We've come a long way with Mr. Ford, and he's doing terrific," Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass said as she addressed Ford's mother, Amy Ford, in the courtroom gallery. The judge, who last year sent Ford to a state mental-health facility in Sparks, also signed an order allowing a mother-son jail visit.
Outside court, Amy Ford, who turns 61 on Monday, said she didn't exchange words in the courtroom with her son, whom she said she had not seen since 1999.
"But with his eyes, he said, 'Hi Mom,"' she said. "This is a nice Mother's Day and nice birthday present."
Ford, 34, stood before the judge in a blue jail jumpsuit with his wrists shackled at his waist. But his cropped hair and a clean-shaven face were a marked contrast to his appearance during court hearings in late 2004 and early 2005 when he wore his hair past his shoulders and had a full beard that extended to his chest.
A year ago, Glass ruled Ford incompetent for trial and rejected his attempts to plead guilty to charges that could have sent him to prison for 27 years.
"Yes, your honor," Ford responded calmly Thursday after Glass deemed him competent and asked him if he understood the plea agreement, which also requires him to pay restitution and have no contact with Fischbacher or Horn.
Ford pleaded guilty to one charge of shooting at a structure. Several felony charges, including assault with a deadly weapon, were dismissed. Glass set sentencing for June 29, but said Ford could be transferred to Tucson sooner, if a suitable treatment center was found.
A publicist for the entertainers said they were aware of the agreement, but had no comment.
Ford was arrested six weeks after the Sept. 21, 2004, drive-by shooting at Fischbacher and Horn's Las Vegas compound. Police said shotgun pellets shattered windows and left a hole in a wall. No one was injured.