A Message From Drew
Drew wanted to personally thank you all and address some of the questions you’ve asked. Drew has earned my deepest respect. I’ll turn this over to Drew now.
This letter is to thank everyone who has been kind enough to sign this petition, express their support publicly, and contact the Governor’s office as my family and I plead for Governor Ralph Northam to intervene on the injustice of this case.
I have grown a great deal over the past seven years since this ordeal first emerged. I believe strongly that the sole crux of this dispute regarded emotionally unintelligent things written on Facebook and over text messages during an episode of deep depression prior to receiving a proper diagnosis and subsequent therapy. That diagnosis is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and my long, difficult journey of self-improvement began there — not because of the system, but in spite of it.
I said some inappropriate things to some inappropriate people with no insight into what I was doing or why, but have since apologized profusely in open court twice. I am embarrassed by, take responsibility for, and deeply regret such writings, but that said, they were just that — writings, written at a time when I was riddled with pain and felt on the cusp of suicide. I have since come to understand, and work diligently to overcome, a primary symptom of Autism — social and communication delay.
In regards to my past behavior, I got severely burned and I learned. Sadly, neither the charges nor sentencing matched the “crime”. My true transgression was having Autism, not knowing it, and lashing out rashly on my keyboard or cell phone in a Papa John’s uniform dotted with tears.
During this time in my life, I couldn’t make it through a shift delivering pizzas without crying through most deliveries. My manager would often ask what was wrong, but I wasn’t ready nor able to communicate effectively. I can communicate appropriately now due to my consistent adherence to therapy and my unwavering desire to grow as a healthy person.
Chesterfield County took impulsive missives at face value and unleashed the pain train without pause for seven long, agonizing years, completely immune to the pesky shackles of introspection. What could have and should have been dealt with six years ago in a therapeutic setting with an honest and open conversation was instead thrown into a monstrous machine with seemingly only one goal — to win at any cost.
During its unrelenting course of destruction, all parties involved have been hurt, re-hurt, and hurt again while I suffer needlessly at the hands of a sadistic system that had as little insight into my diagnosis and past behavior as I did.
Thankfully, Governor Northam is a pediatric neurologist with a vast understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder. I remain hopeful every day that I will get a letter from his office soon, but the waiting game is nonetheless very difficult and painful.
I want everyone to know that I have used this trauma to strengthen and empower me to the very core. I have become, and will continue to become, stronger and wiser for this. I have been given an up close and personal vantage point into how we as a society often treat those with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as mental illness and addiction.
I’m trying to keep this letter brief, but I wished to thank you all for your support as we continue to fight for Governor Northam’s imperative intervention. I don’t want or need pity, but I deeply appreciate all your support and compassion. I will use it as fuel for my drive to be a champion of change regarding criminal justice as it pertains to the mentally ill as well as the intellectually and developmentally disabled.
Much love and respect,