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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Update on Neli Latson

Things did not go well for Neli Latson after he received a reduced sentence for assaulting a Stafford County deputy in Virginia.  In June, The Free Lance Star reported:
Latson was living in a group home in Winchester last August when he got into a scuffle with a deputy there. He was convicted of assaulting a police officer and attempting to disarm a police officer but was released on time served. 
He was then brought back to Stafford and charged with a probation violation. This time, he was ordered to serve another year and was serving that sentence when he picked up his latest charge on April 24. 
According to the evidence presented by Commonwealth's Attorney Eric Olsen, Latson was placed on suicide watch and was being escorted by three officers from one area of the jail to another. 
As one of the officers was instructing Latson to put his hands on the wall, according to testimony, Latson replied, "don't [expletive] talk to me that way." 
He later added, "I will rock your ass. I will rock your punk ass," and punched the officer three times in the head. 
A Taser was used on Latson to get him under control, according to the evidence.
Ruth Marcus has published inaccurate commentary on this case, as The Daily Howler explains.

Today, the ACLU of Virginia sent a letter to Governor Terry McAuliffe asking him to review the case of Reginald “Neli” Latson, a young man with intellectual and developmental disabilities who has been held in solitary confinement in a state correctional facility for almost a year.  The letter urges the Governor to take executive action to allow and facilitate Latson’s transfer to a secure treatment facility in Florida, a recommendation that was made by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Disability Services (DBHDS).
“Unfortunately, Mr. Latson is not the only Virginia prisoner in solitary confinement, nor is he the only person with a developmental disability to be jailed rather than treated,” said Gastañaga. “That is why we have asked the Governor to undertake a comprehensive investigation of the use of solitary confinement and the treatment of people with disabilities by law enforcement and in our prisons and jails.” Gastañaga added, “As Governor, he is also in the best position to lead a broader conversation about how our law enforcement and judicial systems can respond more effectively to situations involving people in our criminal justice system and those in mental health crises.” 
The ACLU of Virginia has joined the Arc of VirginiaAutism Speaks, and others to ask the Governor to take whatever steps are necessary to transfer Latson to an appropriate facility, including granting him a conditional clemency. 
Latson currently is serving time on an assault conviction and has a trial scheduled on January 5, 2015, on another assault charge. Both assault charges were a direct result of the repeated and cumulative failures of law enforcement, prosecutors, and correctional officers to properly address his disabilities. 
Read the ACLU of Virginia’s letter to the Governor here.