I ran across this earlier. Ug, Good look Erik.
Former prodigy faces jail time
BASKETBALL PLAYER STRUGGLING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS
By Brandon Ortiz
The worst thing basketball standout Erik L. Brown did while at Bryan Station High School was skip practice once to go Christmas shopping with his girlfriend, his former high school coach says.
But that was when Brown, known as preternaturally quiet and shy to the point of being passive, could distinguish between reality and fantasy.
"Erik is not well," said his former high school coach, Bobby Washington.
Once the nation's leading freshman scorer in college basketball, Brown, 28, now believes the CIA installed a chip in his brain in a conspiracy that somehow involves his former University of Louisville coach, Rick Pitino.
He is locked in a Fayette County jail cell, potentially facing 20 years or more in prison for setting his apartment on fire in August of last year while, his attorney says, his schizoaffective mind was in a state of delusional paranoia. Schizoaffective disorder is a chemical imbalance in the brain that is associated with depression, mania, hallucinations, delusions and other symptoms.
Brown was on probation at the time of his arrest. In 2004, he was charged with robbing two BP gas stations. But he got a second chance when prosecutors gave him a plea deal that amended his robbery charges to theft charges and avoided prison time.
Those who know Brown say his breakdown is shocking. Washington says Brown was a good, nice kid who never gave the strict disciplinarian any problems.
About a year or two ago, before the arson arrest, Brown told friends that he'd just got back from hanging out with filmmaker Spike Lee in Los Angeles and was going to make a movie with him, Washington said. He also believed he'd signed a contract with the Detroit Pistons for millions.
"There is something wrong with Erik," Washington said.
Skilled ball player
After leading Bryan Station to four appearances in the 11th Region Tournament with his cousin Jaron, Erik Brown accepted a basketball scholarship at Morehead State University in 1998. The lanky 6-foot, 5-inch guard and forward made an immediate splash. The gifted shooter averaged 19.3 points per game to lead all NCAA Division I freshmen in scoring in the 1998-1999 season.
Jaron Brown, who could not be reached for comment, went on to start for the University of Pittsburgh Panthers.
Despite the success, Erik Brown told the Courier-Journal of Louisville in September 2000 that it was "one of the most depressing times in my life." He decided to transfer to the University of Louisville and was released from his scholarship at Morehead only after threatening legal action.
Brown declined to be interviewed for this article. His mother, Diana, could not be reached for comment.
Troubles followed him to U of L. He flunked out of school in 1999 and went to work for a printing company in the spring of 2000. He reportedly had to petition for readmission three times before he was allowed back in school.
Brown attributed his problems at the time to personal issues.
"The best way I can describe it is that I was just out of it," he told the Courier-Journal.
Brown was arrested for possessing marijuana in March 2000.
While Brown never repeated the success of his freshman year, he did start for Louisville in the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons. He graduated with a degree in sociology.
Stress during, after college
Psychologists say the indications are that Brown first began to have symptoms of mental illness in 2003, according to his public defender, Herb West.
Washington said Brown briefly played professional ball in Europe after his career ended at Louisville. His friends think he was never the same after he hurt his hand and returned home, said Washington, who hasn't spoken to Brown in years.
Pastor James E. Robinson, who preaches at the Simpsonville Christian Church in Simpsonville, has known Brown's family for years. He counseled Brown after his 2004 arrest.
Robinson wrote a letter to a district judge in September 2004 asking for Brown to get probation. He wrote that Brown had wanted to play for the Kentucky Colonels, a semi-pro team in Louisville.
"Although I have had little training and studies in the field of psychology, I believe that Erik is a fine young man who has some mental tribulations," wrote Robinson, who lives in Lexington. "His skill as an athlete has caused major pressure, imagined or real, on this young man. He is contrite and repentant for committing these crimes."
Robinson said this week that Brown lost his security blanket after leaving college basketball.
Life for college athletes is highly structured. They are told when to show for practices, games and meals during the season.
"Everything had been taken care of," Robinson said. "But then he was cast out into the world without anything to do, without any knowledge of how to function in the world."
Brown was an aggressive scorer on the court, but "away from the gym he was a very passive sort of guy," Robinson said.
"Perhaps from that one could say basketball was his whole life," he said. "After getting out of the gym, life didn't amount to anything."
Washington thinks Brown cracked from the pressure he put on himself. He views Brown as a classic case, though unusually tragic, of a young man listening to things he wants to hear from people he thought were his friends.
Washington thinks Brown's peers pressured him into transferring to Louisville and pursuing a semi-pro career. He's heard that Brown started crying when he boarded the plane to Europe.
For athletes about to finish college, "if you don't have something planned, it can really get to you," Washington said. "After they get through playing college ball, it takes them two or three years to adjust. Erik was one of those guys."
Delusions haven't stopped
On Aug. 2, 2006, Brown wielded a knife in the parking lot of the Beaumont Farm Apartments on Beaumont Centre Lane. He was threatening people and slashing the tires of cars, according to police statements filed in Fayette Circuit Court.
When police arrived, Brown barricaded himself in his apartment. He spoke to police by phone but refused to let them in.
Brown started a fire on his porch and inside his living room. Police tried to storm into the apartment, and Brown tried to hold the door shut from inside.
Police wrote that the fire could have spread to other apartment units and put residents at serious risk.
Once police managed to get into the apartment, Brown ran into the back bedroom with his knife. He continued making threats even as police ordered him to drop the knife, forcing police to use a Taser on him to subdue him, according to police.
Judge James D. Ishmael committed Brown to the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center for treatment and a mental evaluation in February. But with Brown still unstable, doctors asked for a 30-day extension in April. The judge granted the request.
Brown was returned to the Fayette County Detention Center in May.
Dr. Steven Simon of KCPC testified by telephone Thursday at a competency hearing in Fayette Circuit Court that Brown's competency to stand trial is a close call. Prosecutors acknowledged it's a low threshold: If Brown is capable of participating in his legal defense and understands the court proceedings, then he is competent to stand trial, despite any paranoia or hallucinations he may have.
Simon said Brown was competent when he last saw him on May 2, prompting Ishmael to say he had no choice but to rule that Brown may be tried.
Brown's symptoms have been resistant to treatment, Simon said. According to a letter sent to Ishmael by Fayette County Detention Center doctors last year, Brown has been prescribed an anti-psychotic medication and two mood stabilizers.
Brown has had auditory hallucinations, paranoia, delusional thought processes and suicidal ideations, Simon said.
To this day, Brown believes that the CIA implanted a chip in his brain when he was in Ireland, Simon said. He thinks that the CIA is following him, and that Pitino has something to do with it.
As recently as last week, he called his attorney to repeat his beliefs, West said.
Even with treatment and some degree of improvement, Brown's delusional beliefs "never really went away," Simon said. "They were in the background so to speak. Every time I spoke with Mr. Brown, we were able to have pertinent, reality-based discussions ... But if you touch the button, he still has those beliefs."
Simon said Brown will have the basis to make a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.
West said that he wants to convince prosecutors to offer a plea deal that would reduce Brown's charges, allow him to avoid prison and commit himself into treatment.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Gerald Teaster said it's too early to say whether prosecutors will offer a plea deal.
"Those decisions are still being worked on," he said.
Prison, Washington said, would do Brown no good.
"They will take Erik's mind completely away," he said.