( When I put together the first part of this, I played the story for laughs. Perhaps that angle is inappropriate now? You decide.)
Nineteen-year-old Devin K. Hoerauf just keeps getting into trouble. According to this article
in the Washington Post,
...Hoerauf first appeared before [Judge] Boynton years ago on juvenile charges. He pleaded guilty this summer to second-degree assault after an incident in Silver Spring. He was charged with robbery in June after he and some friends were suspected of stealing bikes from a group of younger teenagers near the MARC train station in Germantown....[Possible spew alert! Protect your keyboard and monitor before scrolling down!]
Hoerauf's situation worsened in his last court appearance:
...As Devin K. Hoerauf's robbery trial in Rockville was wrapping up Tuesday afternoon [November 21], the 19-year-old accidentally dropped a bag of marijuana on the floor when he stood up at the defense table.[Don't pick up that beverage yet!]
The judge's assistant noticed a plastic bag containing "a green, leafy substance" and pointed it out to a Montgomery County deputy sheriff, who picked it up and added two misdemeanor charges...
Hoerauf's defense attorney was certainly placed in a tough position:
To make matters worse, his mother, a defense lawyer, was by his side at the time -- representing him.
What did his mother have to say about her son's recent flub? First, she stated that jail would not help him. And she went on:
"I'm going to say it in a very crass way, and I hope he forgives me," she said.
"He is brain-damaged, your honor. I don't mean he's just a defendant who does dumb stuff. This is a boy with an IQ in triple digits. His brain is glued together with Silly Putty. He can't think his way out of a paper bag, but he can do physics."
I suppose that most of us know somebody like David K. Hoerauf. I'm not referring necessarily to a pothead, but rather to somebody who just doesn't have any sense despite a high IQ. Nominations for others in the stupid-is-as-stupid-does category?
After I wrote the above, a week later I found the following letter to the editor
What The Post Didn't Say About My Son
In a Nov. 25 Metro article, "Marijuana Multiplies Suspect's Problems," I was quoted as telling a judge that my son, Devin Hoerauf, is "brain-damaged" and has a brain "glued together with Silly Putty." The context of those comments was omitted: My son has autism.
The story may be fitting for "America's Dumbest Criminals," but the newsworthy aspect to the story is that prosecutors in the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office are aggressively seeking the imprisonment of a boy who they know suffers from autism. Devin has never physically hurt or threatened anyone. Coincidentally, I, his mother, am a criminal defense attorney.
In the most recent trial, my son was charged with six counts of robbery and one count of conspiracy. The trial revealed that he never touched, threatened or stole from anyone. I did not speak to the jury or examine witnesses during the trial. I was there to help Devin communicate with his actual attorney, Andrew Jezic.
It is unfortunate that The Post is more interested in reporting snippets about a "brain-damaged" defendant than in reporting on a major educational and health crisis. The failure of our society to provide services for autistic people is newsworthy, not dropping pot in a courtroom.
If Devin Hoerauf does have autism, documentation regarding his disability should have been presented to the court. And if such documentation is produced, should autism be recognized as an excuse for escaping incarceration?
The following portion of Ms. Hoerauf's letter appears to contradict facts presented in the above-cited article in the Washington Post
The jury, which was not in the courtroom for the marijuana bust, convicted Hoerauf on four counts of robbery and acquitted him on two counts of robbery and one charge of conspiracy.
So what's the truth here? If the Washington Post
published a correction to the article about Hoerauf, I missed it.
Before finalizing this blog article, I did a tiny bit of research on autism. According to this interview
which appeared on Newsweek
's web site, diagnosing certain forms of autism is not easy:
Los Angeles, CA: What is the difference between Autism, High-Functioning Autism, Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Development Disorder? Or is it just in the eye of the diagnoser?
Barbara Kantrowitz [biography]: These are all different disorders on the autism spectrum. All are characterized by three basic issues: language problems, repetitive behaviors and difficulty with social interaction. People on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, particularly those with Asperger syndrome, have the best chance of establishing an independent life. I understand why you would question diagnosis, but you should understand that these definitions are relatively new and it takes a while for the latest information to filter down to doctors around the country.
Ms. Kantrowitz recently co-wrote a lengthy article
on autism, but I don't recall any discussion of a link between autism and crime. I have to wonder if such a connection exists, beyond this
, from the Autism Society of America:
Unfortunately, individuals with autism are too often victims of crimes....
Also, when I was doing my bit of research, I found the following
, from a UK blog:
The National Autistic Society has said there is no link between autism, including Asperger Syndrome, and crime - and there was no evidence to suggest people with autism were more likely to break the law than any member of the public.
In a statement, the society said: "In fact, in many cases individuals are unusually concerned to keep to the letter of the law. A person with autism will have individual personality traits and facets to their character, just like any other person, that make up who they are and determine their actions."...
As advocates for care and recognition of autism attempt to improve the situation of those who manifest signs along the spectrum of autism, these advocates should be careful that they don't sink to "the Twinkie defense