WASHINGTON — When the news broke that a Rockville family was being investigated for locking two autistic men—22-year-old brothers—in a darkened basement that reeked of urine and had no furniture, police made clear the seriousness of the case.
At a July news conference, Montgomery County Assistant Chief Russ Hamill noted that the doors to the basement were locked from the outside. Hamill asked reporters, “Does that sound like a reasonable solution? To lock two vulnerable adults into a room in those conditions?”
That sense of outrage heartened advocates like Samantha Crane, director of public policy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. That’s why Crane says her organization is so critical of the state’s attorney’s decision to drop the charges against the Lands.
In a statement released Friday, officials with ASAN said they were “appalled” by the decision. In an interview with WTOP Crane said, “Regardless of whatever services you need, it is not OK to put somebody in a potentially life-threatening situation.”
Ramon Korionoff, spokesman for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, said the decision was a legal one. “As prosecutors, we couldn’t make the case” to demonstrate criminal intent. Korionoff says the decision to drop the charges should not be seen as condoning the conduct of the parents in the case. “They were deplorable conditions, I mean it is a situation where your heart goes out the young men, these 22-year-old autistic twins,” but Korionoff says the five-month investigation and the determination that the case to show intent was not sufficient led to the decision to drop the case.
The Washington Post reports that the two sons have been placed in a residential setting and that the parents do have visitation rights.
The attorney for the parents, Maura Lynch, declined to comment to WTOP for this story.