Family of Teen With Autism Fighting Criminal Charges After Public Meltdown
In July 2015, 18-year-old Paul Gordo, who has autism, had a meltdown at a public library in Monterey, California, which resulted in him pushing a 58-year-old woman to the ground. Gordo is currently awaiting trial on a felony assault charge, and his parents, Steve and Susan Gordo, are fighting to have the case dropped.
The family hoped Superior Court Judge Pamela Butler would reduce the charges at the preliminary hearing last month, but that didn’t happen. The felony remained in place, and a misdemeanor was added for another individual who was pushed inside the library.
The Gordos told the Modesto Bee that this criminalizes the disorder, and Steve Gordo added, “You can’t prosecute someone for behavior that is a direct result of their disability.”
The family has set up an online petition that has already received more than 11,000 signatures of support, and Jill Escher, president of the Autism Society of the San Francisco Bay Area, even wrote a letter to Judge Butler urging her to drop the criminal prosecution.
Escher, who has two children on the spectrum, told The Mighty that major changes need to be made within our legal system. “One thing’s for sure, our criminal justice system, which is predicated on the idea of punishing those who willingly choose to transgress the law, is no place to address impulsive acts of developmentally disabled adults,” Escher wrote in an email.
Assistant District Attorney Jenine Pacioni disagreed. “We’re not prosecuting autism, we’re not blaming autism for his behavior,” she told the Monterrey Herald. “This is a crime of violence committed against an innocent woman. We need to protect the public by making sure criminal behavior is prosecuted.”
Pacioni added that the prosecution does not want to put Gordo in prison; rather, they would like to see him put on supervised probation, where he would be monitored and given access to services for which he might not otherwise qualify.
Gordo said the family does not want to accept felony probation, and in a message on the family’s online petition page, he wrote, “To charge him, at all, is to make his disability, itself, a criminal act.”
h/t Disability Scoop