WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, are calling for Governor Bob McDonnell to pardon Reginald ‘Neli’ Latson, #1441792, a wrongfully convicted, autistic young man. Neli is not a criminal and was imprisoned in May, 2010 because he did not understand an officer’s instructions due to his disability, leading to an altercation during which he instinctively defended himself. Neli was guilty of no crime and should never been imprisoned. He has spent one terrifying year in prison and his condition degrades by the day. He has been in solitary confinement for 8 months and is bullied by inmates and CO’s. The VA State Supreme Court ruled that it is not illegal to not give your name to a ppolice officer and if you are unlawfully being placed under arrest, you have the right to resist.
After a 3-day trial Neli Latson was found guilty of assaulting a law enforcement officer, among other charges, and 10 1/2 years in prison was recommended. On 5/31/11, The Stafford County judge modified and pronounced that Neli Latson, with credit for time served and a possible reduction for good behavior, will serve approximately 9 more months in jail, and then on to treatment recommended by the defense. This, despite the presence of several special needs experts, teachers from his school, and his coach, all who verified his autistic condition and had very meticulously prepared a therapeutic plan for him to leave prison and enter treatment that day, followed by a return to school. When his coach was asked if he still would be willing to work with Neli after all that has transpired, his response was an enthusiastic, “Yes.”
Neli Latson must be admitted into a treatment facility right away where he can finally receive the support he so desperately needs as his incarceration is an extreme detriment to his functionality and is not benefitting him or society in any way. Serving an additional year in prison can only harm Neli as he has been treated unjustly with no care or regard for his autistic condition. The state of VA has completely abdicated all responsibility for protecting this young citizen from harm in its zeal to lock him up and criminalize him.
This case is being observed worldwide and we are shocked and appalled at the treatment of one of the most vulnerable of our population, this disabled young man, and very strongly protest his continued incarceration.
WE URGE THAT YOU PARDON NELI LATSON so that the treatment plan presented for Neli in court 5/31 be implemented immediately and not after one more tortuous year of deterioration in Neli’s capabilities and potentially devastating consequences to his mental health. This young man is now at Powhatan Correctional Center, 3600 Woods Way State Farm, VA 23160.