“These are people with brain damage, they’re f–king retarded, they’re on the goddamn spectrum. But they’re our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, our coworkers — they’re part of our country. These aren’t bad people, they don’t have prior criminal history. Fuck, they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since fucking Hitler.”
So spoke Albert Watkins, attorney for multiple defendants charged in connection with the January 6, 2021 attack on Congress and the Capital building. As a result of these inflammatory and crude comments, Mr. Watkins is again the center of media attention and the attorney for Christopher Kuehne, who was charged along with Watkins’ clients Felicia and Cory Konold and three other individuals, has moved to sever his case.
Watkins hasn’t retracted or modified his statements or issued a mea culpa. Instead, speaking to Law&Crime.com, he posited that his “less than politically correct” description of the people storming the Capitol that day was part of a calculated strategy to call attention to his “longstanding pleas for compassion and understanding of those…with mental health issues and disabilities.”
However, referring to someone who may have been diagnosed with a mental disease or developmental disorder as having “brain damage”, being “f–king retarded” or on the “goddam spectrum” lacks compassion and understanding, and denigrates the experience and lives of people on the spectrum and struggling with cognitive, behavioral, or psychological problems or deficits. For those of us familiar with such issues, in family, friends, or our client population, his remarks are painful, punishing, and self-defeating.
An individual’s struggle with mental health problems, intellectual disabilities or developmental disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder may in fact impact judgment, behavior and decision making, and thus constitute important mitigation evidence that would warrant a more favorable plea or a lesser sentence. As an attorney with a background in mitigation, I have used such information in very positive ways to mitigate a client’s culpability, either in plea negotiations to lessen charges, or in sentencing. However, Mr. Watkins’ media ploy seemed less an effort to help his clients and more a decision to insert himself in the spotlight. If the former really were his intention, one must question his judgment in thinking that he would invoke either compassion or understanding by describing people on the Autism spectrum, suffering from cognitive or intellectual disabilities, or living with mental health conditions in the negative, hurtful and dehumanizing way in which he did.
Stahl Criminal Defense is here for all your criminal legal needs. Stahl Criminal Defense is here for all your criminal legal needs. We are committed to treating all our clients with respect, while vigorously advocating on their behalf. Please feel free to contact the firm’s NJ office at 908.301.9001, or the firm’s NYC office at 212.755.3300, or email Mr. Stahl at Rstahl@stahlesq.com.