Reginald “Neli” Latson, is a 19 year-old autistic young man, who on the morning of May 24, 2010, sat in the grass outside the local library in Stafford, VA and waited for it to open. Police allege that it was reported that there was a suspicious black male who had a gun. Deputy Calverley then approached Latson and searched him for a gun. No gun was found. Calverly asked Latson for his name, and Latson refused and tried to walk away as he had committed no crime. Calverly then grabbed Latson and attempted to arrest him without reading him his Miranda RIghts or calling for backup.
After a 3-day trial, Latson was found guilty of assaulting a law enforcement officer, among other charges, and 10 1/2 years in prison was recommended. Latson’s defense centered around the fact that he has Asperger’s syndrome, part of the autism spectrum, a condition caused by an abnormality of the brain. This case has raised concerns about how law enforcement deals with the developmentally or mentally disabled. Latson had done nothing wrong and was completely within his rights to sit on the grass until the library opened, but was accosted by an officer who then proceeded to question, detain and arrest him, even after confirming he did not have a gun. Once it was established that he did not have a gun, Neli Latson should have been left alone. For the next 11 days Neli was held without bail and in isolation at the Rappahannock Regional Jail. Police allowed Neli's school counselor to visit, and she relayed messages and information to Lisa, Neli's mother, who was allowed only one visit. "He wasn't able to speak or communicate with me. He appeared to be in a catatonic state," Lisa says.
As Neli's time in isolation dragged on, police interrogators found him non-responsive and disturbed, and a judge ordered the young man transferred to a state mental institution for 30-days of treatment and evaluation. He was returned to jail for one year and spent 8 months of that year in tortuous isolation. Neli is no longer the same boy and is depressed and deteriorating, losing what functioning he had, and badly in need of a therapeutic facility, not another year of prison.
Please also copy and paste the petition letter into the Governor's contact form to make certain he receives it. Please paste it in at: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/aboutthegovernor/contactgovernor.cfm -- it will only take a few minutes and could make all the difference!
If you can snail mail/phone/fax, please do at:
Office of the Governor
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Phone: (804) 786-2211
Fax: (804) 371-6351
MORE INFO: Please visit http://avoiceforneli.com
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