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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reduced Sentence for Neli Latson

An earlier post reported that Neli Latson had received a lengthy sentence for assaulting a law-enforcement officer. The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star reports on a dramatic new development:
A judge Tuesday suspended most of the 10½ years a jury had recommended for an autistic man whose assault on a Stafford County deputy forced the officer to retire.

Reginald Cornelius “Neli” Latson, 19, was instead ordered to serve two years in prison.

A courtroom packed mostly with Latson’s supporters watched the proceeding in Stafford Circuit Court.

Latson’s case has attracted widespread attention, with many people insisting that Latson’s condition and a long prison sentence do not mix.

In suspending 8½ years, Judge Charles Sharp imposed conditions that include several residential treatment programs and intensive probation once Latson is released from prison. He has been behind bars for a year while the case worked its way through court, and that time will count toward his sentence.

During a three-day trial in March, a jury found Latson guilty of assault on a law-enforcement officer, wounding in the commission of a felony, disarming a police officer and obstruction of justice.

Latson had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Deputy Tom Calverly, who had been in law enforcement for more than 30 years, suffered severe ankle damage and other injuries during a May 24, 2010, scuffle with Latson outside North Stafford High School, where Calverly worked as a resource officer.

Calverly was forced to give up his job because of the injury, and ankle-replacement surgery is pending.

Latson’s attorney, William Reichhardt, never disputed that Latson injured Calverly. But he argued that Latson’s conditions, which include a form of autism known as Asperger’s, made it impossible for him to control his actions that day.

The incident began when several children at Park Ridge Elementary School reported seeing a man with a gun at the nearby Porter Library.