The police locked down the local elementary school and sent Deputy Calvery to approach Neli. Deputy Calvery approached Neli and searched him and found no gun. Deputy Calvery asked Neli his name and received no reply. Having done no wrong, Neli tried to walk away. Despite the fact that Neli had committed no crime, Calvery grabbed Neli and attempted to arrest him, he didn't read him his Miranda rights or state the reason for the arrest. A struggle ensued and Neli grabbed Calvery's pepper spray. Calvery did not call for back up, instead he threw him against a car. Neli slammed Calvery against the pavement and sprayed him with the pepper spray and hit him.
Neli was held in isolation without bail at Rappahannock Regional Jail. His mother was allowed one visit and reported that Neli was unable to communicate with her and was in a catatonic state.
After a three day trial, Neli was found guilty of among other crimes assaulting a law enforcement officer. A 10 1/2 year prison sentence was recommended.
The defence cited Neli's autism as a reason for Neli refusing to state his name, not understanding the situation and responding in the manner he did to being grabbed.
Neli was placed in a state mental institution for 30 days for treatment and evaluation and returned to jail where he spent one year and eight months in isolation.
Whilst in solitary confinement after his initial arrest, Neli urinated on the floor and licked it up.
After threatening suicide, he was moved from a normal isolation cell into a "crisis cell" which was an empty concrete room with no bed and a hole in the floor for a toilet. Whilst in this cell, he hit a guard and was tasered. Neli's mother reports that he is gaunt and has lost more than 50lbs.
Funding was secured for Neli to move to a locked treatment facility in Florida, but as he was found guilty of further charges following him hitting the guard, he remains in solitary confinement.
Neli could be my son. He has autism, he is black and he wears hoodies. If you ask my son his name, he probably won't answer. If you try to grab him without him expecting it, he might lash out. If you speak aggressively towards him, he will shut down and not respond, if he does, his aggression won't be proportional to yours.
There are a million reasons why Neli should be pardoned and released. Some autism related and some because Neli's arrest and detainment in continued isolation breaks so many of his basic human rights.
When I look at Neli, I see my son and it scares me.
I write this in tears because my son is only seven yet I fear for his future and safety for reasons a mother should never have to.
*Below is a link to sample tweets and hashtags to raise awareness and help free Neli*