Autism Speaks co-Founders Bob and Suzanne Wright have sent the letter below to Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia regarding the case of Reginald Latson, a teenager with autism who was charged with assaulting a police officer in 2011 and has been held in solitary confinement for most of the past year. Read more about Latson's case here. Autism Speaks offers resources for first reponders on interacting with individuals with autism.
Hon. Terry McAuliffe
Office of the Governor
1111 East Broad Street Number 3
Richmond, VA 23219
Email: Terry.McAuliffe @governor.virginia.gov
Re: Reginald "Neli" Latson
We are the co-founders of Autism Speaks, the largest autism not-for-profit organization in the world. Autism Speaks has chapters across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom and works with federal, state and local governments, as well as the U.S. military, to meet the needs of an ever growing population. Last month, Suzanne and I met with the Pope at the Vatican as part of the Vatican's first ever conference on autism. Just yesterday, the national media announced our MSSNG joint venture with Google to develop the world's largest database of sequenced genomic information relevant to autism.
As you are aware, Reginald "Neli" Latson, a young man with autism, is languishing in a Virginia state prison. On behalf of the entire autism community, we are asking you to exercise your discretionary clemency powers to assure Neli's transfer to the secured therapeutic facility in Florida that we understand has been recommended by Virginia's mental health officials.
We are not asking you to release Mr. Latson to the community or to issue an unconditional pardon. Rather, we seek merely Mr. Latson's transfer to the Florida treatment facility with the understanding that Mr. Latson would get the therapeutic treatment and medical oversight that he so desperately needs. (1)
Rarely, if ever, does Autism Speaks advocate in connection with an active criminal matter. Autism Speaks, for example, will not involve itself in any matter where there is evidence that the defendant's "autism" is, in reality, a pretextual excuse that is "diagnosed" or "discovered" only after the arrest of the defendant. Such defendants impair our cause, and serve only to confuse or offend the public. Neli Latson, however, has a longstanding autism diagnosis and his inappropriate reactive behaviors are manifestations of that diagnosis.
We thank you for your consideration and hope and pray that you have the compassion and courage to do the right thing.
(1)This would include Mr. Latson's existing sentence, as well as any extension of that sentence should Mr. Latson be convicted on the additional assault charges that are pending. We would strongly encourage dismissal of those additional charges by the prosecutor.