Stephen's #AutismJustice Fund

$2,890 of $5,000 goal

Raised by 88 people in 2 months
Stephen is being prosecuted by Ottawa County Courts for having autism.  Please help us with the legal fees and work loss associated with this ongoing modern day witch hunt.

On May 8, 2018, Stephen had a meltdown when electronics were taken away from him and his brothers. 
***Meltdowns are common in people with autism. *** John, Stephen's Step-Dad, put Stephen in a basket hold to help him calm down during this episode.  This is a tecnique we are trained to use so that Stephen is safe and the pressure of the hug/hold is calming for someone with sensory integration problems.  John was able to let go of Stephen safely after a few minutes.  Stephen then, predictably, began screaming and crying. 
**This type of behavior is also typical of meltdowns.  For Stephen, it is always self directed and typically goes away with the help of his anxiety medication.**
During his rage fit, Stephen said he wanted to die and he didn't want to live anymore.  John responded according to Stephen's emergency plan and called 911.   Stephen was taken to the hospital and evaluated by a Social Worker.  This social worker saw that Stephen had a meltdown likely caused by anxiety.  They gave him some anxiety medication and let him safely come home.

-Two Weeks Later-
Friday 5-18-2018
John received a letter in the mail on Friday from the Ottawa County Prosecutors Office stating that Stephen was being charged as an adult with Domestic Violence.  John was listed as the victim.  John contacted the prosecutors office the day he received the letter and asked why they were charging him when we specifically told the officer that he did not want charges pressed and that Stephen is autistic.  The prosecutors office told John that it must have been an oversight and if he filled out the victim packet stating his concerns the prosecutor would drop the charges. 

Saturday 5-19-2018
On Saturday, Stephen was arrested and spent the night in jail on a bench warrent that John was told the previous day had not yet been issued.  John called the jail and explained that Stephen is an autistic child with the mind of a 12 year old.  John then explained how important it was that Stephen got his medicines.  Jail staff told John that they would make sure that Stephen saw the doctor first thing in the morning and get approved to take his medications.  Stephen never saw the doctor as promised.  Stephen was denied the medications that he brought with him in original perscription bottles while in custody at Ottawa County Jail.  

Sunday 5-20-2018
Stephen was able to see a judge on Sunday morning.  He was granted a PR bond, but had to have an evaluation from Community Mental Health prior to being released.  Stephen was not granted access to a phone to be able to call me, but I did call the jail and was told by the officer I spoke with that Stephen would be able to call me when he was released so I could come pick him up.  I inquired about whether or not he had seen the doctor and taken his meds, and the officer told me that he would check and make sure that it did happen.  I also asked the officer to make sure to tell the CMH worker that Stephen is on the autism spectrum.  The officer told me over the phone that he would make sure that happened.  This was at 9:30 a.m.
I received a phone call from a different officer saying that Stephen was ready to be picked up at 1:30 p.m.  The officer then asked me where Stephen was going to stay?  I asked him what he meant and he stated that one of the bond conditions was that Stephen was not able to return home because it was the victim's residence.  Stephen was also not allowed to have any contact with John.  John is the primary caretaker for Stephen.  John is Stephen's safety net.  When this was explained to the officer on the phone he advised that we contact the prosecutor on Monday to have the bond conditions changed.  The prosecutors office did not change the bond conditions prior to the arraignment.  Ottawa County Courts unnecessarily separated a disabled child from his caregiver.   When Stephen was released from jail, one bond condition was that Stephen was not able to return to the home of the 'victim.'  In this case the victim is also the child's primary care giver, so the courts unnecessarily separated a disabled child from his support network.

The Arraignment - Wednesday 5-23-2018
John personally spoke with the prosecutor prior to the arraignment.  He stated to the prosecutor in writing and in person that he did not want charges pressed.  The victim rights packet John filled out and turned in on Monday had not yet been reviewed by the prosecutor, so he refused to drop charges at that point.  John told the prosecutor that the conditions of the bond needed to change.  Stephen needed to be able to return home and I needed to be able to return to work.  The prosecutor agreed and told John that he would make sure the conditions of the bond were changed and Stephen would be allowed access to his support network. 
During the arraignment, I took the stand with Stephen.  He has the mentality of a 12 year old and is incapable of representing himself.  I was forced to sit down even after exlaining to the judge and the bailiff that Stephen is autistic and cannot represent himself.  Stephen was forced to stand there for himself without any support.  The prosecutor was not in the court during Stephen's arraignment.  John spoke up from the gallery and asked for a change to the conditions of the bond.  After reading something, the judge grudgingly agreed.  By promising to help amend the bond and failing to appear in the courtroom, the prosecutor was continuing to try to keep a disabled child from his support network.  

The Pretrial Conference - Wednesday 6-6-2018
John and I obtained legal counsel for Stephen prior to the Pretrial Conference.  Since they are charging him as an adult we would not be allowed to help him or be in the room with him duing court related stuff.  The lawyer was confident that the charges would be dropped at the pretrial conference having seen all the documentation.  At the pretrial conference the charge was still not dropped.  Stephen was offered to plea bargen from domestic violence to aggravated assault.   We told the prosecutor no.

Stephen is being punished for being disabled.  Stephen is being charged as an adult regardless of his actual mental capacity.  Stephen is being charged for having a medical emergency.   We are being punished for having a disabled child.  We cannot trust his emergency plan. 

Help us make sure Stephen is not punished  for his disability.
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Thank you everyone for your support. We didn't reach our goal but our attorney agreed to take what we raised. We now move on to the lawsuit against this counties prosocuter.
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The day after Stephen's final pretrial (where they offered him a plea of assault that we turned down) the prosecuter called our attorney and said that they reviewed the case and his medical records and talked to the school liason and decided it was in everybody's best interest to drop the charges. Now this review happened 2 months after the charges were issued and 2 plea bargains were offered. Why not review the case, medical records and interview the liason before the first pretrial? They thought we wouldn't fight and they would get money out of us, once they realized we would take it to a jury trial they decided to review. Crazy!
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Stephen was scheduled for the final pretrial conference this morning at 10:00 am. We were joined at 9:30 am outside the courthouse by friends and family in a showing of support and peaceful protest. Stephen was very anxious, but it was helpful for all of us to see the support we have from this community!
Unfortunately, the Ottawa County Prosecutors Office did not drop the charges. Michael Oakes, our attorney, tried to explain what autism is and what a meltdown is. He also explained what a basket hold is because the prosecutor did not know or understand. The prosecutor seems to feel that prosecution is the appropriate way to deal with medical conditions that they don't understand. This is why Stephen's case is being brought to trial.
The next court date is on Thursday, July 12 at 9:00am. This will begin the jury selection process. The public is welcome to attend the jury selection and Stephen, John, and myself welcome any and all support in the courthouse. This process has been so hard on our whole family and we are emotionally exhausted. We will be so thankful when this is all over.
Stephen was rejected from an opportunity to attend a special education training program for kids with developmental disabilities due to these charges. We are hoping that the prosecutor sees reason and educates themselves on ASD so that he can reapply in the future. We are hoping that this whole thing will be dropped so that Stephen can start moving forward in his treatment again instead of the increases in anxiety and regression we have seen.

I took some pictures this morning of Stephen with me waiting in the courthouse and Stephen with John looking dapper in their Autism Awareness shirts. Also, if anyone wants to come to the jury selection and/or the trial, those dates are included in the third picture.
Again, thank you all so much for your support! Please continue to share Stephen's story and help us raise awareness for Autism and funds!
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There will be a peaceful gathering in support of Stephen at the 58th district court in Hudsonville MI on July 10th 2018. Please join if you can so we can get this behind him and start our March to advocate for all of the mentally disabled I Ottawa and Allegan counties.
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$2,890 of $5,000 goal

Raised by 88 people in 2 months
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