Our 18-year-old son Paul has autism. He struggles with behavioral issues, and has been awaiting acceptance into a residential treatment center to get help managing his behavior and sometimes-aggressive panic episodes. Unfortunately, due to one such episode at a library, he may be headed to probation, a state institution, or prison.
While in the midst of a panic attack, Paul pushed a disabled woman. I imagine it was a frightening experience for her, but I know for certain that my son was also experiencing extreme fear and confusion at the time. Paul has been working so hard to address these meltdowns and stop them before they get to this advanced stage. In fact, he was in the library that day to work with an instructor on these exact issues. But instead of seeing this as an ongoing medical challenge and considering Paul’s good intentions, the Monterey County District Attorney's Office insists on charging Paul with felony assault.
My son Paul needs continued assistance and help, not criminal charges. Please join us in asking the Monterey County District Attorney to drop the all charges against him. To charge him, at all, is to make his disability, itself, a criminal act.
We have hired lawyers and tried to get the district attorney’s office to show compassion and understanding. Instead of using prosecutorial discretion and choosing to understand that Paul’s panic attack was a direct result of his disability, they have given Paul no other option than to plead guilty to the felony or go to trial.
We strongly believe this case has implications for all families and groups that care for people with developmental disabilities like autism. As hard as we work to protect them and others from their developmental issues, there will be moments like this one with our son. It’s a difficult situation that shouldn’t be made worse by treating people with a disability as criminals.
Please stand with Paul and ask the Monterey County District Attorney to drop these charges. It should not be a crime to struggle with a disability.
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