Norman “Griz” Ford called “I love you, son” to his 3-year-old as he left a federal courtroom Thursday to serve a 171/2-year prison sentence for his part in the murder of Gary Flett Jr.
The sentence was “fitting,” said U.S. District Court Judge Edward Shea. Ford got half the time given to the man who fired the gun.
Joey Jake Moses was previously sentenced to 35 years in prison for a 2006 home-invasion murder on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
“It’s fair,” said Pete Schweda, Ford’s attorney. “It’s within the range that we expected.”
Flett’s great-uncle, Joe Flett, disagreed. “It’s a tough situation for everybody,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is pleased (with the sentence).”
On the morning of June 1, 2006, Moses and Ford went to Flett’s home while “extremely” drunk, according to courtroom accounts. Moses had a beef with Flett, 20, for bullying him over the years. Ford wanted to beat up Flett because Moses told him his fiancée and Flett were having an affair, which the fiancée denied.
Ford twice considered walking away, but Moses egged him on, according to the courtroom accounts. At 3:30 a.m., Ford kicked in Flett’s door to confront him. After Ford and Flett yelled at each other for 35 to 40 seconds, Moses, wearing a bandanna on his face, came in firing.
Ford and Moses fled. When Ford called his family to tell them what happened, his parents told him to do the right thing.
“I told him to call the law. Justice will prevail,” said Norman Ford Sr. “Lately, I question that advice.”
Ford’s father was among 50 family members in the courtroom to support the now 33-year-old man, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and burglary. Nearly as many relatives appeared on Flett’s behalf.
Flett’s family members lamented the loss of his potential, his hugs, his smile, his voice and his laugh.
Family members from both sides live in the small town of Wellpinit on the reservation.
“I grew up with you all. You know I would never go there to kill someone,” Ford told Flett’s family. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I made a mistake. I’ll live with that for the rest of my life.”
“I went into that house thinking of my family,” Ford said. “I left that house thinking of my family. I never shot anybody.”
Shea sentenced Ford to the least amount requested by the U.S. attorney’s office. He also agreed to recommend Ford serve his time at the Florence Federal Correctional Complex in Colorado because it would be the closest place for his family to visit.
Ford’s son will be nearly 21 when his father is released from prison.