Home > Government Relations > The Latson Case in Virginia: A Danger Signal That We Can’t Ignore

The Latson Case in Virginia: A Danger Signal That We Can’t Ignore

Teresa Champion is an attorney admitted to the bar in Kentucky and Washington State.   She has two children; Sydney and James, who has a diagnosis of autism.  She is a long time civic and community activist, who works with the Fairfax Autism Network (FAN) and the Virginia Ability Alliance (VAA). Champion is a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA). Currently, Teresa is volunteering for the Virginia Autism Project (VAP) as the Northern Virginia Regional Director.  

The Cry for Help:

I sat in the courtroom and sobbed.  I had never met this young man and I had just met his mother in person that morning.  Even though we were essentially strangers, I viscerally felt the anxiety and fear of this family.  Reginald “Neli” Latson has Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and was on trial for injuring a school resource officer.  I too have an 18-year old son with autism.

The evidence showed that Neli, in resisting arrest, had severely injured the officer, but only after an interchange that magnified his inability to process verbal input and significantly increased his sense of uncertainty and apprehension.  The officer had been alerted to look for an African American teenage male carrying a gun.  Neli had been sitting waiting for the library to open.  He had no gun.  Although initially cooperative when the officer approached him, Neli stopped cooperating when the police officer asked him for his name.  He had done nothing wrong.  The “rule,” he knew, was that police officers went after people who had done something wrong.  Since Neli knew he had not done anything wrong, to his concrete way of thinking, he didn’t need to obey the police officer.  So he didn’t comply with the police officer’s request that he identify himself and attempted to leave the scene.  It is undisputed that Neli did not possess a gun or any other weapon.  Until he encountered the officer, he had committed no crime.  The basis for the arrest was a county ordinance that makes it a crime to refuse to identify yourself in response to a request from a law enforcement officer.

Neli was found guilty of charges associated with an assault and the jury recommended a sentence of 10 ½ years.  In Virginia, the jury recommends a sentence and the judge imposes the sentence at a later date.  In Virginia, there is no parole.  He will serve every day of whatever sentence he is given.

Many ASD families who read about this case thought, “that could be my son/daughter.”  If the autism community doesn’t do something quickly, similar outcomes could face many more of our young adults.

How do we stop this from happening again?  We must educate and train the community at large about autism.  How do we help this young man and his family? Try to explain autism to the Judge and ask for treatment not punishment.

Helping the community at large:

During the pre-trial interviews of prospective jury members only one person was aware of Asperger’s Syndrome.  He did not make it into the jury box.  When Neli was being interviewed at the police station after the tragic event, he was asked if he had any sort of disability.  When he said he had Asperger’s, the police officer interviewing him said, “What’s that?”  That is too late.  Although the injured officer in this case has a disabled son, he didn’t recognize someone with an ASD when he encountered him, nor was he trained to deal with the likely consequences of Neli’s disability.

As this population with an ASD ages and those individuals, like Neli, who didn’t have access to adequate treatment and therapy become adults, we must explain autism to the community at large.  Just like we had to do for our children’s teachers, caregivers, and family members when they were younger.  We worked for acceptance and training everywhere they went.

We have to be one step ahead of our adults with an ASD in the community.  We must talk honestly about the hallmarks of someone with an ASD and also educate our young adults on how to interact with someone in law enforcement. We have to show our disabled adults how to be interviewed and possibly arrested by the police.  Statistics show they are seven times more likely to encounter law enforcement than the general population.[1]

The legal system is not equipped to deal with individuals that can’t respond appropriately and/or control their response because of a disability.  We have a lot of work to do to educate and train the judicial and legal systems and the community at large.

Helping Neli and his family:

Helping Neli and his family is a more complicated issue.  Funding supports in the community so that someone can be supported and live with a disability safely is a long-range goal that can’t be ignored.  A more immediate goal is let this 19- year old disabled man (who likes to read Goosebumps books) and his family know that he is treasured and they are cared about.  Most importantly – support the attorneys and professionals working to present a sentencing report to the judge that will explain the side of autism that the jury never got a chance to hear and understand.  He should be given rehabilitation and treatment not further incarceration.  Neli has been in jail since this incident happened in May, 2010 but he has been trapped inside the cell of autism his whole life.

Pay attention to this case and pray.

The Autism Safety Project provides First Responders with information and guidelines for communicating with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in emergency situations.

Here is a letter submitted to Judge Sharp from Gary Mayerson, the Director of Autism Speaks Federal Appeals Project.


[1]  http://www.autismriskmanagement.com/,  Dennis Debbaudt citing FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin,  April 2001.

 

 

  1. Noreen
    May 27, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Who do we write? Does the family have a statement about the child? Where do they feel is the most appropriate place for treatment? I would like to write all the U.S. Reps and get higher up politics involved. It always helps to actually put pressure on the JUDGE to get educated about the more recent subjects, such as AUTISM.

  2. Jo
    May 27, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Being a military family stationed in Virginia, this saddens me deeply. It could be any of our children in any location. This boy doesn’t need to be incarcerated. The adults involved in the case should be educated and it’s so heartbreaking that he could spend more time in jail because of someone’s ignorance. My daughter is 5 but carries an ID card that her name and a description of her disability on it. It is unfortunate that we have to teach our children a “rule” to “explain themselves or be arrested”. That’s shameful on the part of the officials involved.

    • icylda poulina
      May 29, 2011 at 7:09 am

      Jo,like your family,Neil was brought to Virginia by the Military…his mom spent 11 years in the military serving this COUNTRY.Neli NEVER knew civillian life until he moved to Virginia!!!he grew up in the military!!!!

  3. Noreen
    May 27, 2011 at 9:56 am

    What happened to the person who made a False Police Report? They should be in jail for 6 months for making false reports.

  4. BSS
    May 27, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Can you disclose the name of the judge so we can send emails/letters to the judge?

  5. Ken Gorski
    May 27, 2011 at 10:40 am

    As a police officer I am shocked at how this “mere encounter” led to this young man being detained, and the situation spiraling out of control. If this county does in fact have an ordinance, it is unconstitutional to circumvent the basic freedoms given to us at the state and federal levels. Obviously this young man should be released,, and better training for the officers, court personnel and judges is desperately needed. If the officer could articulate his actions and reasons for the stop I would be surprised, and remember, I’m on this side of the blue wall. The Supreme Court recently found that “mere encounters” with police/law enforcement do not require the “common citizen” to do anything, they in fact have every right to walk away if the officer has no resonable suspicion to detain them.

  6. Carolyn
    May 27, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I was told by my son’s psychiatrist to call the police next time my son with (5) diagnosis got violent, ran away, or stole anything. My story is very long, therefore, I will try to make this short. I did call the police and often. They made this one report that caused us to be in DJJ System in September last year. He was not represented in the court system, the judge had no understanding of how to deal with a child on the spectrum. From there it just escalated, his school became involved for behaviors he was having day to day. My son went to a school that is fully aware and capable of handling outburst situations, but the judge ordered that if my son where to hit/kick another child the school was to call the police and they would put him in a holding cell. They did this 3 times, on the last time in January 2011, the judge decided he needed consequences. She sent him to YDC. Mind you on this occasion also, my son had not hit nor kicked a student (it is not in the police report). I immediately, setup hospitalization for my son (this would turn out to be his 9th hospitalization). The judge wrote an order to release him to the hospital where he spent the next four months. Who pays (I do). Who caused this event (Court System and School System). Upon my son leaving the hospital I retained an attorney in the hopes that my child would not have to return back to that school. I didn’t win that placement either, when we called what was my second IEP upon his release from the hospital. He did return to that school, I was told the school system has to FAIL, excuse me, I believe they already have failed. When and how do the parents get justice! I fear for my son’s future, but I will remain the fighting force to get him educated.

    • May 27, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      Is there anyway you can home school. My oldest with Aspergers was being being bullied and I home schooled her for one year. She was diagnosed with ADHD back in the 90′s and early 2000′s. Wrong diagnosis. Now, she has a daughter who is PDD_NOS/ADHD and has some problems at school, but so far so good. She is on meds that have to be changed. My daughter was very aggressive when she was little and I put her in Karate, but the best things that happened was she started taking Wellbutrin.

      I understand your frustration with the school system and in general the law. I am helping my daughter raise her children and actually feel like I am still raising her. Thank goodness the anger outburst are now far and few between with my daughter, but my granddaughter is getting hard to handle.

      My heart and prayers go out to you.

    • June 9, 2011 at 11:18 am

      Ms. C, PLEASE let us know here HOW any of us can help U & Ur son!

  7. Torree7
    May 27, 2011 at 11:22 am

    :’( That could’ve been me :’(

  8. Amy Nelson
    May 27, 2011 at 11:39 am

    This could end up being my “son”, I am raising my husbands son from prior marriage. Who has Austim, Severe Language based learning disability, ADHD, and Adjustment disorder. Our son may not understand what an officer is asking him. The people on that jury need to be educated. My husband and I pulled our son out of the public school system this past Jan. We also have become members of the HSLDA. Maybe they could help this family as well.

  9. Judy S.
    May 27, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I too have an adult son with Aspergers and see how this might happen. We need to educate our law enforcement in all walks of life to understand and deal with these situations appropriately. These people are NOT criminals, they just need to be understood and dealt with appropriately. Had someone close to him been contacted before the situation arose, this would never have happened. I think this young man should be released from jail immediately! He will forever be traumatized by what has happened to him and this makes me sick!

  10. Jenna Oliphant
    May 27, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    10 years for essentially refusing to identify himself? what the heck kind of county is this? this individual has a DISABILITY. it seems insane to me that they could incarcerate this boy for, essentially, his disability. wasnt there ANYONE there to testify in his defense? I work in a law firm, and this just blows me away. this is one of my biggest fears for my son, as there is such a large population of individuals with disabilities in the prison system. its so inappropriate. please provide us with the names of who we can write to to try and help this young man have his sentence overturned, converted, or at least get him put in some place that understands his disability. putting him in prison just makes him susceptible to the filthy things that happen in those places, and he will yet again be unable to defend himself.

  11. Carrie
    May 27, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    This breaks my heart! Such a travesty of justice! This man does not deseve to be serving a 10 1/2 year prison sentence. Society has failed him and not afforded him the inteventions and training necessary for persons Autism and Asperger’s to cope with society. This is the SAME disorder that James Durbin of American Idol has. Granted, no two people with an Autism diagnosis are affected the same way, but this should have been a consideration. this is an example of the difference between the individuals who receive support and intervention verses those who don’t. If you don’t receive intervention before you reach adulthood, there is very little support for persons with this disorder once you reach adulthood.

    I appreciate that our police officers must be respected and protected in order to do their jobs, and this is why the heavy sentence was imposed, but what about persons like Neli with neurological disorders? They deseve special consideration, and at minimum, an evaluation by a person highly trained in Autism before having to stand trial. This is sooooo wrong! Jared Loughner (sp?), the man who shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed those innocent people in Arizona was analyzed and found to be schizophrenic. His disorder is much more pronouced and was taken seriously, but why not Neli?

  12. Darla
    May 27, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I believe the boy’s lawyers should note in their sentencing recommendation that the case will be appealed on the grounds of (based on what it written in this article): 1)When the boy was detained and taken to the station, there is no mention of him being given counsel or asked if he wanted a lawyer. When the questioning officer was told that he had a disability of Aspergers, the officer should have stopped questioning immediately until someone with knowledge was present. 2) The first officer, once it was established the boy was not armed as the suspect he was seeking was reported to be, had no further right to identity or detaining the boy. The officer entrapped the boy into the situation. 3)The boy was not judged by a jury of his peers. It is obvious that for the “peers” designation to be met the jury would have to have either individuals who were high-functioning in their disability; OR, individuals who had some knowledge of the aspects of the disability. By denying to include the one person who had some knowledge or educating the jury members on the disability, the jury was tainted. Where do we write the judge about sentencing because although the article says the officer was severely injured, the officer was partially if not totally responsible for his own injuries based on this article’s reporting of how the incident escalated.

  13. Kathleen
    May 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    This could be my son! My son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and I can’t even get the school to give him an IEP, because “he’s too smart”. Never mind he melts down like a two year old when he’s over stimulated in class. My regional center doesn’t offer services either, unless he has a “qualifying dual diagnosis”. I can feel this mother’s pain, and I would be there to fight with her if I could. Things need to change for these kids, but how? and where do you start? This is tragedy and we as a people need to come together to fight for these kids!

    • Elizabeth
      May 29, 2011 at 1:07 am

      This makes my blood boil!!! You have a diagnosis… and they still refuse? Such ignorance is offensive. High intelligence (often genius) is a BIG symptom of AS!!! I would contact a disability rights advocate or better yet, an attorney, as they are violating his civil rights as soon as they punish him for any symptoms of his disability. In Texas we have Advocacy Rights Texas, but other states have other organizations.

      My son’s AS has still not been recognized, but his “anxiety disorder” has. I suppose it’s a label they’re more comfortable with? In any event, he will at least receive the assistance he needs, and once they address the anxiety (the biggest symptom he has of AS), they’ll find the underlying AS (which his mother has too). As soon as anything goes amiss, I plan to exercize my rights to a district-paid independent third opinion. It’s expensive to pay for… they might acquiesce because of the cost if they don’t!!!

      • Deana
        June 9, 2011 at 11:39 pm

        When my son was in school, they refused to allow Asperger’s as a diagnosis, so I pushed for an ASD diagnosis, but ended up with cognitively delayed, since he could not adequately answer IQ tests, since he doesn’t test well in standardized formats; this diagnosis even though they acknowledged he displayed above average intelligence in history and science. The physcologist who diagnosed him when he was 10, even said the IQ test was not a valid estimate of his intelligence. He also has a siezure disorder and qualified under “other health impairment. Sometimes it is more important to find a way to qualify for an IEP that addresses the person’s needs than worry that the paperwork has an accurate diagnosis. Fight to get the diagnosis included after he is getting the services. What about a diagnosis of speech impairment? My son has a very noticable delay between when he is asked a question and when he provides an appropriate answer. Basically find your son’s symptoms in other condtions that will qualify him for services. One good thin here is that gifted-ed childred also recieve IEPs. Getting diagnosed outside the school system is definitely the way to go. School phsycologists get myopic and look at how to fit a child in with what they are familiar with.

  14. katie anderson
    May 27, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    As someone who relocated to Virginia with my 16 year old autistic daughter I am again not impressed that a lawyer is “sobbing”. Look professionals, quit your crying and start HELPING us already. I kick myself everyday for moving to this pathetic, backward state. I gave up a Medicaid waiver in Ohio and a Autism specific school.We moved here for my husband’s crappy paying academic job. I should have gone on welfare, let my house foreclose and stayed put.

  15. May 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    This is a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened. As a mother of an Asperger’s daughter and a grandmother of a PDD_NOS/ADHD 11-year-old granddaughter I know only too well how our children can be misunderstood. My heart and prayers go out to this family, but what else can we do. Is there a petition to be signed to help get this innocent, frightened child out of the hands of the law?

    Lord, I lift this family up to you right now and ask they you do your supernatural work and release this him from the jaws of injustice. I thank you Lord for listening and acting on this prayer. Amen

    • Elizabeth
      May 29, 2011 at 1:08 am

      AMEN AND AMEN!!!

    • June 9, 2011 at 11:50 am

      Ms. W, TY 4 the prayer! Add MY AMEN, 2!!

  16. PapaRon
    May 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Can this case not be taken to a higher court? Like all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States?! I can only try and imagine the horror that poor boy experiences every single day of his life. Those involved in his trial should ALL have their close minded asses kicked!!!!!!!!

  17. Andy
    May 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Why is this young man in jail when it was provoked? Is the cop in jail as well, and if not why? I have an 8 y.o. son who is severly autistic, and does not speak at all, is this what he has to look forward to in life? Jail because he can’t talk. A wonderful world we live in isn’t it, I am just so damn proud!

  18. Marcie
    May 27, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I’m sitting here crying for this young man and his family. I have 4 children and 2 with Autism. My oldest will be 18 year old this year and this is my biggest fear. When he is confronted he shuts down and will not answer any questions that are asked of him, including his name. I would love to know who and where to write. My heart goes out to this family along with my prayers

  19. Renata Irving
    May 27, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Please…everyone…ask the community liason officer if you could provide the Autism
    Society’s Safe and Sound cards–wallet sized cards w/ symptoms of ASD and
    methods to lessen anxiety. Our police dept. in Gilbert, AZ, was very cooperative
    and every officer has a card, and the victim counselors let us do a talk about Autism. We also visited our local fire dept. and spoke to
    them about ASDs and possible safety issues.They even put on equipment so my son
    could see it was ok–there is a firefighter under all that gear.Check w/ your
    1st Responders–if we provide proof of guardianship ( yes, though he is my son I need proof of guardianship) and they can enter info about your young adult in their
    computers to notify 1st Responders there is someone w/ communication disorder who may become highly agitated. Knowledge and friendship are powerful tools.
    Please keep this case in the news-R. Irving

    • June 9, 2011 at 11:54 am

      Ms. RI, TY 4 useful tips 2 follow! I believe prayer is GRRRRRRRRR8, but even BETTTTTTTTTTTER when positive ACTION is added!! God never turns down R help…

  20. Deana
    May 27, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    My son has Asperger’s and I have found it is better to say an autistic spectrum disorder to get them a quick picture. He sometimes has outbursts related to his disorder, and sometime would get violent on purpose. I finally had to call the police because he assaulted me. Fortunately the repsonding officer new him and that he was disabled. He did have to go to jail overnight, but the kept him separated from the general population. His supported living aide new the sheriff and my son knew one of the jailers as an aquaintance so he had a safe stay. He ended up with a one year deferred sentence and had to get a counselor. It was very hard for me to make that phone call. It made all the difference that the police officer understood his condition. He is also fortunate that two other officers here know him and his condition. One very common mistake police make with people with ASD is not giving them enough time to process the question, and find the words to respond. My son finally has a counselor and though he has only been there a few times, he seems to be connecting with him.

  21. Stephanie
    May 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    This is so scary to me! I would be a nervous wreck if this was my son. Something has to be done to keep this young man out of jail. He doesn’t deserve to go to jail. This really shows the ignorance of the people in these kinds of positions. They should be trained and there should be some way to identify our kids… So that this never happens again. This is the type of thing that keeps our kids isolated and makes them totally dependant on us as their parents. Then people want to know why we are so protective.WELL THIS IS WHY my child is only 10 but when he is 18 if things do not change he will still never be without an adult that can speak for him……

    • June 9, 2011 at 11:59 am

      Ms. S, Perhaps U missed this info in the original Post: “Neli has been in jail since this incident happened in May, 2010 but he has been trapped inside the cell of autism his whole life.” He’s ALREADY served OVER A YEAR 4 not telling an officer his name :( :(

  22. helen
    May 27, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    When will they ever learned?

  23. Oforiwa
    May 27, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Here’s a link to the petition created by his mom: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/autism-and-racial-injustice/
    And
    Here’s a FB page link created by Neli’s mom: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fight-Against-Autism-and-Police-Injustice/128823193814341?sk=wall

  24. Cyndi
    May 27, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    I suggest the young man have a neuropsychological exam if he has not already had one. This exam can more clearly define the neurological deficits/differences that contribute to behaviors that can be associated with autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Joseph Conley,JR, PhD is a neuropsychologist in Staunton, VA who also has forensic experience.
    My 11 year old son who has ASD and ADHD was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Attorney for Bedford County for assault and battery when he fought a teacher that tried to restrain him at school. My son had not touched anyone when the teacher attempted to restrain him. The teacher would not press charges so the Commonwealth Attorney did.

  25. Diana
    May 28, 2011 at 8:03 am

    This is all just so sad. Why aren’t police, lawyers, judges (everyone in the court system) trained properly???? My 15 yr old nephew is Autistic, these stories sadden me. I pray the “officials” “those in charge” get some well needed education!

  26. ileana morales
    May 28, 2011 at 11:33 am

    How can I help!!!!!This is my biggest fear!!!! My son just turned 18….and I am so scare of something like this happening to him….
    What can I do…to help this family…..

  27. Erin Kuhlman
    May 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    “Neli has been in jail since this incident happened in May, 2010…”?! What the H—?! How could this be? What kind of sadistic people live in the state of Virginia? My daughter is only four, but the way time flies, she will be a young adult in the blink of an eye. Although I am a highly educated individual, if someone abused Jean in this way, I’m afraid my hypothalamus (The portion of the brain controls the ancient survival reaction called the fight-or-flight response) would take control. So my question is, why hasn’t someone come to Neli’s rescue before now?

  28. Lisa Alexander
    May 28, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Teresa, thank you for writing this article. It was well written. I also thank you for your unwaivering support of Neli and our family.

    To all of the commenters, I thank you all very much for your kind words. The article and the comments had me in tears. Yes, my son does not belong in a jail. He spent 8 straight months in isolation. I don’t think that people really know that my son was been in jail for an entire year. He was never given bond. I am hoping for a different outcome at his sentencing on Tues May 31, 2011.

    Again, thanks for your support.

    Lisa

  29. Avery
    May 28, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Are you going to help this young man? After 1 year why are you talking about it now? This young man has been held in captivity like an animal for over a year and his mother has been any and everywhere seeking help and now because you have a First Responder Imitative he’s the blog worthy….Really?

    I’m sorry for sounding so nasty, but he didn’t have to be jailed if someone nationally would have helped his family and offered them some sound direction. So, now he has to fight an uphill battle to freedom because as thousands of supporters rallied to save him and failed….Now he’s important….Okay Thanks!

    Please help this young man get justice!

    • Lisa Alexander
      May 29, 2011 at 11:48 am

      (((Avery)) Hugs to you for your support. But unfortunately my son’s story went virtually unheard of, despite my best efforts. Some people are now just hearing of this story for the first time.

      Teresa is a woman with a beautiful heart. A virtual stranger, she showed up for my son’s trial and sat with me and hugged me. The tears she shed after witnessing what was taking place and physically placing her eyes on Neli, made it very very real for her. Through her support, I have received some very tangible help which I am grateful for.

      I am also grateful for this story being blogged about on Autism Speaks website. I appreciate everyone who can sympathize with Neli and our family. We have to continue to dialog and get the word out.

      Lisa

  30. Marpessa
    May 29, 2011 at 12:47 am

    Please Support and Spread the Word as far as you can! Mom is trying to get as much press as possible!

    Neli’s Mom has a Facebook Page: Fight Against Autism and Police Injustice

    Please sign the Petition!: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/autism-and-racial-injustice/

    Website: http://avoiceforneli.com

  31. Elizabeth
    May 29, 2011 at 12:53 am

    I can’t count how many times I’ve been misunderstood or been accused of having ulterior motives for the things I say and do (the worst is when I do something out of fear). I would cry if I could… but it’s almost impossible for me to cry or laugh. Thankfully my AS permits me to speak (or at least write) for myself. Who is going to speak for those whose AS prohibits that?!?!? Why was the jury not educated on AS by bringing in a subject matter expert as a witness for the defense??? I’m no attorney but this seems like just common sense. ASPIES need public advocates and DEFENDERS that “get” it… perhaps higher-functioning aspies??

  32. Elizabeth
    May 29, 2011 at 1:21 am

    MUST-WATCH, AWESOME MOVIE ABOUT ASPERGER SYNDROME – “MY NAME IS KHAN” — about a grown up man with AS who gets interrogated and imprisoned for tying to say to the President of the US, “I am NOT a terrorist” after 9/11, because he is also a muslim. It reminds me SO much of this scenario!

    They show in grave detail the arrogance and ignorance of enforcement officers that leave their compassion, common sense and humanity at the door… and how he rises above all that to motivate a nation. It’s not far-fetched, as most AS people are very intelligent and have amazing insight that can benefit our whole society, given the proper encouragement instead of judgment!!!

  33. May 30, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    This is so damnable. There is so much heartbreak in this story, as if the family, especially Neli, had any room for additional sorrow. I am the mother of a daughter diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age three; and, while we are seeing improvement with some homeopathic remedies (Enzymes, Vitamins, non-medicinal Supplements), she and I are living this thing out day-by-day. Autism is a thief. I hope to help this Cause, so I will join in the campaign for Neli’s freedom from unfair persecution by the American Criminal Justice System. Neli is not a criminal, Neli is a political prisoner, all because God did not design him to fit a cookie cutter prototype of what a free American citizen resembles in the eyes of some aggregiously under-informed law enforcement and criminal justice personnel enabled and (further!) empowered by a jury pool (that itself was) also tainted by ‘ignorance’ of the pertinent underlying factors that spurred and accelerated this desperately unfortunate Incident. Neli could be my child. Please visit my website and listen to the musical tribute (i.e. song) I wrote concerning my own child, who is now thirteen years old. It is called “Song 4 M”, and if anyone is interested, I am willing to forward a (free) MP3 of the song to attach to mass emailings to elected officials (have we gone that route, yet?!?) and media. Out of heartbreak…togetherness! -With Love and Hugs for All Concerned for Neli’s Safe Return to His Family, Community and Country…Sherry

    • June 9, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      Ms. SS, TY 4 thinking of a unique way 2 reach those who NEED EDUCATION on Autism!

  34. Pastor W.J.
    May 30, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I would like to know more something has to be done about this madness.

  35. Sarah
    May 30, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Speechless. Please tell us whom to write.

  36. May 31, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I signed the petition. Hopefully we can turn the judges bad decision around. Poor kid.

  37. June 1, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    This is an unfortunate event that I fear will only increase. The public at large is just not going to be prepared in the years ahead as the current ASD population ages and makes their way into young adulthood. It is my hope that society’s organizations like the ones that are involved here are educated about handling those people who do not communicate or respond in the same way as most people do. Also, this is why we parents of the autistic advocate and stress and struggle to provide as early intervention as is humanly possible, understand the disorder our child as as best as humanly possible and do our best (warts and all) to develop him/her into the best autistic adult that we possible can. It is my prayer that this situation works out for all involved and a warning shot is sent out that more has to be done in the name of autistic awareness!

    • Deana
      June 9, 2011 at 11:48 pm

      If only Neil could have a had a jury of true peers. People with ASD diagnoses. People with this spectrum of disorders do have the tendency to tell and more importantly know the truth from a falsehood when told by others. Personally I think almost anyone on this spectrum that is fortunate enough to have decent communication skills would be invaluable on any jury.

  38. Lisa Alexander
    June 9, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    In spite of the Judge being given a “win win” situation by Neli’s defense team, he decided that my son needed to spend another year in jail. Neli wasn’t coming home. He was going to a hospital for approximately 6 months and from there a residential school for kids and adults with ASD.

    Yesterday Neli was sent to a State Penitentiary in VA. Where is the justice I ask? A woman in Stafford KILLS someone with a DUI and the same judge gave her 8 months. Another woman was charged with attempted murder for firing several shots at her boyfriend. She was found guilty, given a 5 year sentence, ALL of it suspended. There are more and more horrendous stories like this in Stafford County. I have started a new petition on change.org to request a pardon from Governor McDonnell. Please sign and share.
    http://www.change.org/petitions/pardon-wrongfully-convicted-autistic-youth-neli-latson?utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=own_wall

    • Barbara Pons
      August 23, 2011 at 10:09 am

      any more updates on Neli???

  39. Samdy Bachman
    August 23, 2011 at 12:22 am

    This is so sad, the courts are ignorant to ASD’s. My son who has an ASD is currently in jail possibly facing prison. He has chronic depression as well. He had a previous felony for resisting arrest, no explanation needed I don’t think. He attempted to take his life with a gun, they arrested him and charged him with felony firearm, because as a felon he should not have been using a gun. I am so scared for him, he sits in jail with a bond so high I cannot get him out. He is scared, I talk to him daily and it breaks my heart. I understand Lisa’s frustrations and pain. There are so many others that have been and will continue to be in situations like this with a legal system that doesn’t have a clue nor a heart. My prayers go out to this family during this very difficult time, and pray that some help will come for this very deserving young man

    • Barbara Pons
      August 23, 2011 at 9:49 am

      OMG another one?? this is really scarey. Im so sorry to hear about your son in jail. How old is he and what state are you from? I wish i could help you. I struggle a lot with my 11 year old son and this has been one of my BIG fears for the future.

      • Samdy Bachman
        August 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm

        My son is 25 and we live in Michigan, we have some pretty tough laws here. He hasn’t even been given his meds, he is on Risperdone, he has been there a month. It’s a crock of shit. As for your son, do some significant research and get him all the help you can get him now before it is too late. My son
        didn’t really have that chance as there was little
        understanding of ASD’s when he was a child. If I were
        wealthy this probably would not be happening.
        Thank you for your reply
        Good luck with your son and God bless

  1. May 27, 2011 at 10:48 am
  2. June 1, 2011 at 12:57 pm
  3. June 8, 2011 at 10:17 am

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