Murder defendant gives judge homework in order to better understand mental illness
Whitley Circuit Judge Dan Ballou got some homework Thursday morning while he was presiding over a case in court.
After Jeffery Cole pleaded guilty but mentally ill to murder and second-degree assault, Cole, who has a long history of mental illness – including one time trying unsuccessfully to legally change his name to Victor Von Frankenstein – asked Ballou to watch the movie “Split” in order to better understand his mental illness.
Wikipedia notes that the film follows a man with 24 different personalities, who kidnaps and imprisons three teenage girls.
“It reminds me of myself. This guy needs some serious medication,” Cole told Ballou who agreed to watch the film.
In exchange for his guilty but mentally ill plea, Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronnie Bowling recommended a 25-year total prison sentence for Cole. Cole will have to serve at least 20 years of that sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
“The challenging thing about this case was not proving that he did it. I think our evidence on that was overwhelming. It was proving that he has the mental state to actually form the intent to do that, which is a big part of the law,” Bowling said.
“We had to concede that he does have mental illness. We just believe that he should still be held accountable for his conduct. The public is safer with him behind bars.”
Bowling added that the guilty but mentally ill plea functionally doesn’t make any difference for prosecutors, which is why he doesn’t get hung up on it.
“Any facility he goes to will have a medical wing or like what we call an insane asylum where those in the ward receive medical treatment. At their discretion if they feel that he is healed to the level where he can be safely housed, he will be moved over to the prison side where he will serve his sentence as a regular inmate,” Bowling explained.
“Also, we have mental health standards. If they deem that he is too dangerous to be released in the future that can be visited 20 years from now when he comes up for parole. At this point, this is the best option for all parties involved. It is a good resolution.”
On Jan. 15, 2018, Cole stabbed Curtis Lawson to death in the living room of Cole’s mother, Franzine Minchen. He is charged with murder and second-degree assault in that case stemming from an attack on Minchen, but that charge was dismissed.
Cole ran from the scene after the stabbing, and about 5:10 p.m. the next day, he allegedly stabbed local wrecker service owner Danny Sullivan in an unconnected incident. He is charged with second-degree assault in that case.
Cole again ran from the scene and was captured by Kentucky State Police a couple of hours later after a foot pursuit during which two KSP sergeants received significant injuries.
History of mental illness
Cole has been sent to the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center (KCPC) on multiple occasions since his arrest for treatment and to be evaluated for his competency to stand trial. He was judged competent to stand trial.
KCPC is a state run psychiatric hospital, which is located in Lagrange prison. Those incarcerated in county jails or state prisons are often sent there for psychiatric treatment or evaluations to determine competency to stand trial.
Cole has a history of psychological issues.
He set up a Go Fund Me page in December 2018 that has since been taken down, seeking $500 million to fund his “robotics” company.
Cole was sentenced to eight years in prison for a Knoxville robbery, and while he was incarcerated squirted urine from a bottle into the face of an officer and attempted to kill a correctional employee with a homemade pocketknife, according to one prison record.
Prior to his release from prison in 2017, a mental health expert wrote that Cole was diagnosed with delusional disorder grandiose type and believed he could support himself with his inventions when he was released from prison.
According to a disability assessment report of Cole that was done in Bronx, New York, in late April 2017, Cole suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, Psychosis, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Bipolar Disorder.
The report also noted that Cole has had multiple hospitalizations for mental health issues.
Cole, who is now 30, appeared in court Thursday morning in an orange jail jumpsuit wearing handcuffs and a facemask, and told his mother that he loved her as he entered the courtroom while it wasn’t in session.
During routine questioning by the judge prior to accepting the guilty plea, Cole told Ballou that he had gotten kicked out of school multiple times and didn’t have much education, but could read and write.
He also said that he does suffer from mental illness or defects that can affect his ability to think or reason.
“I am on my medication. I feel better,” Cole noted.
Cole said that he understood the charges against him, and was pleased with the legal services of his court appointed attorney, public advocate Adam Delph.
“Adam worked hard for me. Harder than any attorney I have had,” Cole said.
A presentence investigation must be completed by the Kentucky Department of Probation and Parole before a defendant can final sentenced in a felony case.
Cole asked whether that could be done Thursday and final sentencing hearing be done all in one day, but Ballou noted that the final sentencing hearing would instead be done on Monday.
Often it takes four to six weeks for a presentence investigation to be completed, but much of that time is due to a backlog of cases that probation and parole officers usually deal with.
Cole requested that Monday’s sentencing hearing be done in the courtroom rather than by a video hearing.
Ballou explained that it would be done in person in the courtroom.
Cole asked if he would be stuck inside a mental hospital once he is released from prison, but Ballou said he didn’t know the answer to that question.
Cole said that he would like to move in with his mother once he is released from prison, and to learn how to drive, and start a family.
“As long as I am on my medication, I am as stable as anyone else,” he told the judge.
Ballou scheduled the formal sentencing hearing for 10:30 a.m. Monday.
Before Cole left the courtroom to return to jail, he hugged his attorney.
Bowling noted that the detectives in the case, and Sullivan all agreed to the plea agreement, but that prosecutors were unable to get in contact with Lawson’s relatives.