Times Staff Writer

The large stand-up plaque outside the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame stands in the shadow of a giant, generic pass receiver who could be Don Hutson, ever reaching to round off his NFL record at an even 100 touchdown catches.

The plaque reads: “The Green Bay Packers, an institution and a legend, are unique . . . “ That they are, but as the 1987 season gets under way with Sunday’s game against the Raiders, one of the Packers isn’t really an institution. He’s just in one--the maximum-security Dodge Correctional Institution 75 miles downstate at Waupun.

Cornerback Tommories (Mossy) Cade was convicted May 24 of two counts of second-degree sexual assault for raping his 44-year-old aunt by marriage. The situation occurred while she was visiting from Houston in November 1985.


Cade’s conviction came the day after wide receiver James Lofton, who had been traded to the Raiders by the Packers a month earlier, was acquitted in a courtroom across the hall in the Brown County courthouse on a charge of sexual assault.

The 87,899 citizens of Green Bay breathed a great sigh of relief. A visitor gets the impression that they didn’t care as much how the twin trials came out as they did about just wanting to get them over with, to remove the scandal that had tarnished their team and town, which are intertwined as in no other place in professional sports.

“Titletown, USA” really hadn’t won a title in 20 years, but this was a new low.

It was all finally over on July 29 when Cade, 25, was sentenced to two years, fined $15,000 and packed off to Waupun to do his time.

The Brown County prosecutor, Royce Finne, called the sentence “woefully inadequate,” and the two Milwaukee newspapers agreed in editorials. Under the law, Cade could have--and should have, they said--gotten a maximum of 10 years and a $100,000 fine.

The superintendent at Waupun, Gordon Abrahamson, also assured all who cared to listen that Cade would be treated as just another con.

The tenor of the remarks left Cade’s supporters hoping that he would even be treated that well. Abrahamson said Friday, however, that Cade was due to be transferred soon to the medium-security facility at Fox Lake, not far from Waupun, where he could receive “sexual counseling” and have more freedom to roam the grounds.

Cade will be eligible for parole in February, which means he could be playing football for the Packers again a year from now.

His lawyer, Don Zuidmulder of Green Bay, said, “My personal view is that if an error’s been made and a penalty assessed, sure, he could play football here again. He wouldn’t be the only sports figure to be in a situation where the fans are rough on him. He’ll be judged on the life he then leads.”

But realistically, some other citizens won’t be tying any yellow ribbons ‘round the old oak tree.

George Cary, a retired district manager for Mansville Corp., is president of Martha’s Coffee Club, a small, loosely organized but steadfastly loyal group of Packer supporters who meet every weekday morning, year round, in the coffee shop of the Bay Motel to talk about their team (they used to meet at Martha’s restaurant).

Cary thinks Cade “will play again, but not here.”

Mark Lee, another cornerback who is the defensive co-captain and playing his eighth season in Green Bay, said, “I have no idea. It doesn’t matter with the fans. I think it’s more with upstairs, (the people) that pay his salary. Mossy was a real fine football player. I hate to see us lose somebody like that.”

Coach Forrest Gregg indicated that he would welcome Cade back, but Gregg may not be around when, and if, that happens. Gregg, although he has two years left on his contract, is coming off a 4-12 season and has only a 20-28 record with the Packers.

Jon Teer, Cade’s agent and longtime friend in Austin, Tex., said, “I don’t care if he never plays another down of football. I’m just worried about his mental health.”

Nobody has been able to ask Cade what he thinks about it, because he has refused requests for prison interviews. He can have up to three three-hour visits each week, and his most frequent visitor has been his fiancee, Kim Wright, who moved from Memphis and is working for Zuidmulder as a receptionist.

After some consideration, she decided she didn’t want to talk, either.

“Mossy is just sick of reading all the negative things,” she politely told a reporter “So he doesn’t want to talk about it, and he doesn’t want anyone else talking about it.”

Lofton’s return to Green Bay to play in the Raider-Packer game Sunday may offer a clue to what reaction Cade’s comeback would bring, but nobody is sure about that, either. Some fans may recall the time in ’79 when Lofton gave the fans an obscene gesture after they booed him for dropping a pass in the end zone in a 27-22 loss to the Jets

“Mixed, probably,” Cary predicted of Lofton’s appearance. “A few boos, but a few hand claps, too. It’s been a degrading thing that has not helped the image of Green Bay or the Packers.”

Lee said: “I really don’t want to worry about what the fans think about James Lofton coming back here. I’m more concerned with what James Lofton is going to do on the field.”

Bud Lea, a longtime sports columnist for the Milwaukee Sentinel, said, “I’m not sure how the fans will react, but it hasn’t affected ticket sales. There’s still a waiting list of 10,000, the (luxury) sky boxes are sold out and it hasn’t affected attendance at the Packer Hall of Fame.”

Lee Remmel, the Packers’ veteran public relations director, said he doesn’t doubt that Lofton, several times an All-Pro, someday will be enshrined in that hall across the street from Lambeau Field, between Lombardi Avenue and Packer Drive.

“That would be at least five years after he retires and people forget,” Remmel said.

Cary sees the primary difference between Lofton’s going free and Cade’s going to prison as courtroom expertise. “Lofton had the better of the two attorneys,” he said.

Lofton was represented by Stephen Glynn, reputed to be the best defense attorney in Wisconsin.

Even now, a couple of clips on Lofton remain part of the historical highlight film shown at the Packer Hall of Fame, which is a first-rate museum and unique in the NFL.

“I can’t see this other stuff affecting (Lofton’s selection), after what he’s done on the field,” Lea said.

That, of course, is what would count in most towns, but Cade didn’t play in most towns. He played in Green Bay.

Cade’s agent, Teer, who is white, said, “If you’re a black person living in Green Bay, it’s very strange. If you’re black, you’re there to play for the Packers, otherwise there’s no reason for you to be there (because) there is no black community. You’re in a fish bowl there, and it’s a small town.”

Cornerback Lee agreed. “That’s true. It’s good in a sense and bad in another way, just because of the fact that you’re black you’re supposed to be a football player here in Green Bay or you’re not supposed to be here.

“Every time I went out shopping in the town, the people were very nice, but they knew exactly (who he was), that’s for sure.

“That’s fading away by the years. There are a lot of (black) business people coming from Milwaukee, more than in ’80 when I first got here.”

Lee, however, still goes home to the milder climate of Seattle after the season.

One story was that the late Vince Lombardi used to tell his players that if they were determined to get into trouble, to get into trouble in Milwaukee, two hours’ drive away, where not as many people would notice.

On Zuidmulder’s counsel, after he was convicted but before he was sentenced, Cade sought leniency and admitted his guilt.

“It was a sick act,” Zuidmulder was quoted at the time. “He needs help. He should get help.”

The judge, Richard Greenwood, subsequently recommended in a letter to Abrahamson that Cade be given “the opportunity to participate in a course of treatment which will better enable him to understand his problem and to control his conduct in the future.”

Cade apparently will get that treatment at Fox Lake.

Cade is no stranger to trouble.

The San Diego Chargers drafted him in the first round in 1984, but he signed with the Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League. In ‘85, the Packers paid the Chargers their first-round draft choice for ’86 to acquire Cade’s NFL rights.

Later, they learned why the Chargers might have been eager to unload him. Cade was sued for child support by a Casa Grande (Ariz.) woman, who said she had borne his son in 1980, and the Packers paid her $88,787 in child support, which was being deducted from his salary.

“They must have known those things,” said John Levesque, a Martha’s Coffee Club regular. “So why did they bring him in?”

Still, Gregg has stood by Cade. The tough-minded coach, himself a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame from the glory years at Green Bay, said after Cade’s arrest in ‘85, “I am not the judge. I am not the jury. This is America. A man is innocent until he is proven guilty.”

And, when Cade admitted his guilt, Gregg said, “I’m disappointed in the outcome of this trial. There was no basis for them to find Mossy guilty.”

That didn’t go over very well with local citizens, among them Robert J. Parins, the Packers’ president and a former Brown County district attorney circuit court judge, who still serves as a reserve jurist on occasion.

“Those were Gregg’s remarks,” Parins pointed out. “The publicity . . . certainly hasn’t helped the image of the corporation.”

Ah, the corporation. The Green Bay Packers Inc., with their 1,800 nonprofit owners, is worth about $33 million now, and it wasn’t easy getting there.

It takes times to build a respected and revered sporting image, and it hurts to have it torn down by a few careless acts.

Gregg was quoted as saying: “In Green Bay, these problems are magnified because we are a small community and because everything in this community points to this organization.”

But he didn’t apologize for his support of Cade. In the Packers’ new yearbook, without mentioning the episode, he has this to say:

“The one thing that I guess that I won’t give up, as a public figure, is my right to choose my friends, my right to support what causes I feel that I want to support.

“Sometimes, by doing that, I irritate people . . . (but) I don’t necessarily try to influence anyone else. But if somebody asks me, I’ll tell ‘em.

“And I cherish loyalty, in the people that work with me and work for me. I give it back in kind, and that’s important to me.”

Maybe some day, Gregg’s loyalty will pay off for Cade. Teer noted that defensive end Mike Bell of the Kansas City Chiefs, who recently served three months for attempting to possess cocaine, has worked his way back into the starting lineup this season.

“That’s encouraging,” Teer said. “I sure hope they treat Mossy the same way.”

Lee, perhaps catching the essence of Green Bay best, said, “The fans have always been good here. We sell out every home game. The fans are going to be loyal to the Packers, no matter what.”