01/08/2009 1:00AM

Norman to be released from prison


Cole Norman, a prominent Southwest trainer who was sentenced to six years in an Arkansas state prison for negligent homicide last April, had his parole approved at a recent hearing and is eligible to be released on Jan. 22, said Joe Graham, a deputy prosecuting attorney for Garland County, Ark.

Norman is a resident of Louisiana, and because of additional paperwork required, his release could be delayed slightly.

"We're hopeful he'll be released on the 22nd," said Jamie Pratt, an attorney representing Norman.

Norman, 40, was involved in a traffic accident in Hot Springs, Ark., on Feb. 5, 2007, that left Virginia Heath, an 86-year-old woman, dead. Norman was found to have painkillers, for which he had prescriptions, in his system. Norman, who had broken his neck in an all-terrain vehicle accident in December 2005, pled guilty to negligent homicide during his trial in April 2008, and was taken into custody on April 9, 2008.

He was originally expected to be eligible for parole by April of this year, but he voluntarily entered and completed a substance abuse program in pison, which played a role in his earlier release.

"They gave him 90 days for that," said Pratt.

Pratt said Norman hopes to resume his training career. He also said the parole board received a number of letters from individuals in the racing industry in support of Norman.

"He had lots of support, people who were his owners, and there were some trainers, and there were even some track officials that expressed support," Pratt said. "I guess the most important thing, the victim's family did not oppose his parole."

Pratt said a civil suit that Heath's nephew had filed against Norman has been settled out of court.

Norman has won six training titles at Oaklawn Park and nine at Louisiana Downs. He has not started a horse since Feb. 11, 2007.