A Castle Rock child with autism is facing third-degree assault and harassment charges stemming from a schoolyard tiff almost two years ago, when the boy, Logan Thompson, says he retaliated against a student's push by slapping him in the face.
Thompson is facing two years in juvenile detention on the grounds that he is a serious threat to the safety of students and teachers in the Castle Rock school district.
“We don’t want to see any more assaultive behavior,” said Chelsea Koch, a deputy district attorney with Douglas County, in court on Thursday, July 13. “All we are asking for is that Logan gets the services that he needs.”
The DA’s office has refused to drop the case against Thompson, opting instead on Thursday to keep him under the supervision of the district court and in a highly structured “management plan.” Under the plan, Thompson has been required to attend half a dozen therapy and counseling sessions per week, some of which have to be paid for by his family.
Thompson’s mother, Lisa, believes that Logan is being criminalized by the DA’s office for his autism. “This is not the way this should have gone,” she says. “This is a ten-year-old boy who snuggles his fluffy toys at night. And he is being kept in court specifically because he has autism.”
Jacque Phillips, Logan's lawyer, also believes that the charges are overblown. “This looks like what all kids with autism do, and what all elementary kids do,” Phillips says. “They’re going to kick and spit...and when kids get close, they push them away.”
Both Lisa Thompson and Phillips raised concerns that the alleged bully’s parents, Yvonne Brown-Karpan and her husband, John, who is the facility manager for the Denver Broncos, may be using political influence with the district attorney's office to retaliate against the Thompsons after the October 2015 incident.
“I took this case because there was an obvious power dynamic,” says Phillips, though she adds that the defense is “not here to go after the family or the school district,” but simply to get Logan out of the court system.
Another court hearing has been scheduled for December, even though Logan has been ruled incompetent and mentally unable to attend the court hearings. Instead of dropping the charges against Logan, Koch insisted that the boy's defense proves that he is mentally stable after six more months of counseling and oversight from the court.
But Phillips said in court that she “can’t imagine what other treatment would happen” in addition to Logan’s six programs, which include social and emotional counseling, anxiety therapy, and enrollment in a school program designed specifically for kids with autism.
“I can’t think of any reason why this case would be extended another six months,” said Phillips in court. “We just want this to be over.”
Yvonne Brown-Karpan, the mother of Logan's alleged victim, spent an hour in court contesting the narrative of Logan’s defense, saying that her family has been vilified by the media while painting a picture of Logan as a loose cannon who “sucker punched my son to the head.”
A Douglas County Sheriff's report indicates that the victim of Logan's slap showed no visible welts, contrary to the claims of the Karpans. However, the former principal of Saddle Rock Elementary, where the incident took place, described Logan as being "pretty violent" in the same report.
John Karpan likened the media coverage of the incident to “pitchforks and torches coming for your house” and called accusations of political influence in the case “absolutely ridiculous.” During his testimony, Karpan applauded Logan's mental-health progress but said, "I don't think any of this would have been set in motion had we not pressed charges."
Dozens of protesters, including Lisa Thompson, and autism advocates demonstrated at the hearing, decrying the DA office's unwillingness to drop the charges. Some chalked up Logan's problems at Saddle Ranch to his need to be in a special program for autistic students, which he is in now.
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“We’re not only holding this protest to help my son,” says Lisa Thompson. “I want to bring awareness to the autism issue.”
Research has shown that children with special disabilities like autism are funneled into the juvenile detention system at disproportionately high rates for misbehavior. In Colorado, about 6 percent of students with autism faced disciplinary action — including being referred to the court system — in the 2013-2014 school year; that's 1 percent higher than the national average.
The reactions of Lisa Thompson and the Karpans were worlds apart after the decision to keep Logan in the court system was handed down; while the Karpans smiled, Lisa broke down in tears.
“I expected better,” she said after the hearing.