Man doesn't recall running onto track, his lawyer says

Holding cell at Pimlico is his first memory

May 19, 1999|By Peter Hermann and Dan Fesperman | Peter Hermann and Dan Fesperman,SUN STAFF

The man who ran onto the Pimlico race track Saturday and confronted thundering thoroughbreds does not remember facing down the horses or taking a swing at a passing jockey, his lawyer said yesterday.

Lee Chang Ferrell "has no recollection of being on the race track or being apprehended," said his attorney, Frederic C. Heyman. "The first thing he remembers is being in the holding cell at Pimlico."

Heyman would not say whether his 22-year-old client was drunk before he jumped onto the track near the final turn, as police allege, but he said Ferrell suffers from "severe psychological issues" and has been diagnosed with a manic depressive illness.

The incident created a strange and dangerous spectacle during Maryland's biggest day of racing, occurring three races before the nationally televised Preakness and in front of more than 100,000 fans.

Jockeys, including Jorge Chavez, who was struck by Ferrell, were angry after the incident, saying it could have caused severe injuries. "This should never happen," he said after the race. "My horse could be killed I could be paralyzed."

Ferrell, who works at an aquarium store, is staying with his parents in Bel Air and has not been to his Abingdon apartment since his father posted $2,500 bail to get him out of the Central Booking and Intake Center on Sunday.

"Lee is a very troubled person," Heyman said. "His parents as well as Lee are extremely upset that this incident occurred. They are thankful that the participants in the race and the horse are all unharmed."

Ferrell could not be reached for comment and family members did not want to talk. His brother, Kevin, 31, said he hasn't heard from his sibling since the arrest.

James A. Ferrell, 59, said he had no statement at this time. Standing on the front porch of his Abingdon rancher, he said: "It's going to be a long row to hoe."

The younger Ferrell entered the track during the seventh race by climbing a chain-link fence, crossing the turf track and emerging on the dirt as the horses rounded the final turn.

As horses raced down the homestretch in front of a packed grandstand, Ferrell stood directly in front of Artax, forcing the colt's jockey, Chavez, to steer abruptly around him. As Artax passed, Ferrell threw a wild right-handed punch at the horse, brushing Chavez's leg.

Ferrell raised both fists and assumed a boxing stance. At the last moment, Chavez jerked Artax to the inside and collided with Purple Passion, forcing other horses to alter their course. State racing officials refunded the $1.4 million wagered on Artax, the favorite.

After the horses passed Ferrell, two police officers, Timothy D. Hall and Sgt. Steven A. Lukasik, rushed across the track and tackled him. Hall wrote in his report that it took five minutes to subdue the combative suspect.

"The defendant stiffened his arms, not allowing us to handcuff him," Hall wrote, adding: "This officer could smell a strong odor of alcohol on defendant."

Ferrell was taken to Sinai Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and then formally arrested. Police charged him with two felonies, first- and second-degree assault, and six misdemeanors: reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct, two counts of resisting arrest, being intoxicated and trespassing.

The man's father bailed him out of jail using Courtside Bail Bonds, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 15. But Heyman said that because two of the charges are felonies, he expects his client to be indicted in Circuit Court in the next few weeks.

Heyman said he has not received the psychiatric report from Sinai, nor has he talked with his client for very long. He said he was retained by the father yesterday afternoon.

He would not comment on Ferrell's alcohol use, and he said no one really knows why the man jumped onto the track. Some speculated at the time that Ferrell was trying to commit suicide or alter the race results.

Heyman said it "does not seem that suicide was a precipitating factor." The lawyer also added that his client "had no financial interest in the race. The suggestion that Mr. Ferrell was attempting to disrupt the order of finish is simply not true."

The lawyer said family members are "trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together and find out what precipitated the event. We are actively working to address his emotional health and well-being."

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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