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The CWCY has been consulting on the tragic case of Chris Garis, who is 17 years’ old, autistic, and about 100 pounds. After Chris’ 5-year-old nephew said the word “blow job” to his friend, the friend told his mother. The mother reported the incident to the school. School police asked the 5-year-old where he learned the word, and he said his “cousin.” The 5-year-old knows Chris as his uncle, not his cousin. Regardless, the 5-year-old never indicated he was a victim of any assault, merely that he learned the word “blow job.”
Nevertheless, the school police interrogated Chris, the 5-year-old’s uncle. They told him they “knew” he molested his 5-year-old nephew. They “knew” it because Chris couldn’t look them in the eye. Chris is autistic and can’t look anyone in the eye. Chris never confessed, although he admitted that he had poked the 5-year-old with a stick.
Thereafter, the police question the 5-year-old. Over two separate lengthy interviews, he denies being molested or a victim of a sexual assault. Finally, at the end of a third lengthy interview, he agrees Chris assaulted him both anally and orally many times. This 5-year-old has no physical manifestations consistent with anal penetration.
Thereafter, the interrogator gets Chris to affix his signature to a statement that admits sexually assaulting the 5-year-old orally and anally on approximately 50 different occasions over a period of time. According to Chris, he had no idea what he was signing.
With this evidence, the Alleghany County prosecutor brings charges against Chris. He is looking at a lengthy adult prison sentence. Eventually, he is offered a deal he cannot refuse. Chris agrees to plead guilty in exchange for 10 years of intense, in-patient probation within a treatment center for the mental retarded and disabled.
What should have been a tragic and unsatisfying outcome actually got worse. The treatment center continually stated that they did not have space available for Chris. Accordingly, Chris continued to rot in Alleghany County jail. Because of his issues, he was entirely isolated from the rest of the population and was receiving no treatment. This went on for over a year.
November 16, 2009
Due to the ardent work of attorneys Frank Howard and Ross Scott in consultation with the CWCY, the Alleghany County Circuit court ordered Chris released to the custody of his parents on October 16, 2009. The court considered an issue of habeus corpus and essentially ruled that Chris was being imprisoned in violation of his constitutional rights. Chris still has the conviction on his record, still has to register as a sex offender, and is still in a bit of legal limbo, but he is home with his parents and hopefully getting some of the treatment he needs. The CWCY continues to wish for the best for Chris, who we firmly believe is wrongfully convicted after being forced into a false guilty plea.