October 29, 2020
Narrative written by Ms. Carol Nesteikis on this 15th day of September, 2020. Adam is not capable of writing his story due to his disability.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of my brother and sisters, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
I am Adam. I was born on December 5, 1986. Life began and it was good. I hit all my benchmarks until I was 2 years old. I was not talking, and I had spells of staring into space. That began years of testing, medical intervention, doctor visits, medications, IEPs, Special Education, advocates, aides and tutors. I was diagnosed with an Intellectual and Developmental Disability (formerly called mental retardation). I was happy though. My mom and dad made sure of that. We went camping and fishing and on many vacations as a family. I had playmates in my neighborhood until about age ten. I played little league baseball and soccer. Then the kids started to notice I was different. After that I started participating in Special Olympics. I loved it. I participated in Special Recreation and made new friends who were just like me. I left high school with a Certificate of Completion and went into Transition Classes. They exposed me to different jobs. I went to Carbondale to learn independent living, but I was not able to function there and I returned home. I then went to St. Collettas to learn more job training. After St. Collettas, it was time to get a job. I was 21 years old. The Department of Human Resources set me up with a Job Administrator to find job openings for me and helped pave the way for me, a disabled person with I/DD, to find some work. Once hired I was assigned a Job Coach to work with me and my employer. I worked at Popeyes Restaurant for a few years. I would do prep work, clean tables and clean the parking lot. After that I worked at Applebees Restaurant for 5 years. I cleaned tables, seated customers, and cleaned the restrooms and parking lot. I continued to participate in many sports with Special Olympics and I have several gold medals. I socialized with my disabled peers through Special Recreation. I also started scuba diving with the Diveheart Organization. They work with disabled people. I loved diving and became good enough to help the instructors with other disabled people. This was my life. I was happy and fulfilled. I do not date. I will never marry or have children. I cannot live on my own. I have to be reminded to eat, to shower and brush my teeth. I have sensory issues. I wear only certain fabrics. I don’t like to be touched, hugged or kissed. My parents are my caretakers for every aspect of my life. They have worked hard all their lives to make sure I was given a chance to succeed. I was engaged in the community, socialized and my activities with work and Special Olympics kept my brain stimulated. I am kind and I love to help people.
Everything changed in March 2012. The young man who lived next door was my friend. He also had disabilities. He began to sexually abuse me and his young niece who lived in the house with him. One day he showed me what he was doing and wanted me to expose myself to the young girl. He said it would be funny. I did it. I did not know it was wrong. The young girl told the adults in the house. They told my parents they were taking their son to the police and they were sorry that he involved me in this. When the police interviewed the little girl, she told what I did. On April 27, 2012, I was taken into the police station along with the young man who had abused me. We spent the night in the jail and were driven to the County jail in the morning for a bond hearing. I was scared and I did not know what was happening to me. I was charged with 19 felony counts. I did not understand any of it. My parents had to take money out of their savings to get me out of jail. I have never committed a crime. I have no criminal history.
We went to court for one year. I just did what I was told. I would tell our two attorneys that when we didn’t have to come to court any longer, I would take them out for dessert, No one in the court room talked to me or asked me questions. No one in the court asked me if I was being abused. No one asked about my disabilities even though my parents gave them all the documentation. All my neighbors, family and friends wrote letters to the court. They said this should not be happening to someone that does not understand and is a victim.
After a year we were told by the Prosecutor that the 19 felonies would be dropped if we took a plea. It would be one misdemeanor charge, 2 years’ probation and ten years on the sex offender registry. If we did not take the plea, we would go to trial with the 19 felonies. My parents were told I could be sent to prison or be institutionalized. My
mother cried a lot and my father was scared. I would not know how to survive in prison. My parents said we had no choice. For my own safety we would have to take the plea deal. On June 24th, 2013 I took a plea and became a convicted sex offender. I did not understand any of it. The Judge said things to me and asked me questions. My attorneys stood next to me and whispered in my ear what I needed to say. I did not understand but I knew I did not want to go to jail. I would be abused again and probably beaten because of the label the system put on me. I had to move out of the house that
day with my father. Remember, I cannot live alone. We moved to a condominium. My mother lost her son and her husband that day. Mom would come over every day to make dinner and eat with us and visit. Then she would have to go back to our home. They put an ankle bracelet on me that hurt and was hard with my sensory issues. I was always afraid of it. I wore it for 2 years. My mom had to take off work to take me to probation check in. I did not know when to go or where to go. My probation officer was kind to me and my parents. He knew I was disabled. My parents had to spend their retirement money and the money they saved for my future care for my attorneys, court
fees and buying a place for my dad and I to live. My parents were so sad and so stressed. My parents wanted to appeal but we were told we were lucky with the plea deal and that we should do the probation with no violations and then go back to court. That was wrong information. It was too late for an appeal. My parents hired 2 new attorneys. On January 13, 2016, they filed a Post-Conviction Petition. Even though I was a victim of abuse myself, the judge would not entertain the case and it was dismissed in April 2016. We could have appealed but my parents had no more money for attorneys.
My parents ended up having to sell our family home of 35 years. We now all live in that one-bedroom condominium with our 2 dogs. My dad sleeps on the couch. My mom sleeps in the walk-in closet on an airbed. They want me to have the bedroom because everything else was taken away from me. I lost my job. The Department of Human Resources said they will never be able to find me a job with this conviction. I cannot participate in Special Olympics or see my friends from Special Recreation. I cannot do my beloved scuba diving. I sit at home all day now. I have gained 30lbs. My brain gets no stimulation. This is something my developing brain needed badly, and I have lost 8 years. I now have trouble forming my thoughts and getting the words out. I have nothing to do all day. I spin my fidget spinners a lot. It helps calm me. I have a robotic vacuum and I watch it go around the house every day. I like to try and scare my mom every day. I talk to Alexa, Google Assistant and my phone. They are my friends now. I have no life any longer. It was all taken away from me. My parents are sad a lot. They have to follow all the rules for me because I don’t understand. My mom takes me to register every year. They have to live in certain areas because of the rules. We can’t go on vacation anymore or go camping or fishing. I miss my sister in Florida but I can’t go there.
I want all this to go away. I want to play sports again with Special Olympics. I want to scuba dive with Diveheart again. I want to see my friends again. I want to get a job. I want my family to be happy again. We are a good family. My parents will never get to follow their dream of retiring in Florida. They will need to live here in Illinois with me until they are gone. When my parents pass away, I will have to live in Florida and be taken care of by my sister. Even if I am off the registry in Illinois, Florida will put me back on the registry for life. My parents’ burden will become my sister’s burden. If the restrictions do not allow me to live with her, I will be on the streets because no group home or nursing home will take someone with my label. I would not survive on my own.
About the Author, Carol Nesteikis
As the mother of a child with disabilities I had to devote my life to making my son’s life happy and fulfilled as best I could. Your life plan changes when that child is born. I have been an advocate and caretaker since day one. I have worked hard to make my son an engaged member of the community with the proper special education and life training. He is a better person than most. He is kind and personable. He sees no difference in people no matter their color, creed or disability. He treats all people the same. The punishment put on this exemplary young man and our family is unjust.
In 2015, two years after we had to take a plea to save my son’s life, I was feeling very alone. Something like this could never happen to any other family with a disabled child. I was contacted by the Arc of the United States, National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability to speak on a webinar along with another parent from Virginia regarding our family situation. The webinar ended up having 1,000 participants sign up before it had to be closed down because they could not accommodate any more registrants. It was at this time we knew there was a need and we were not alone. I and two other parents from Virginia formed Decriminalize Developmental Disabilities. We are now a Nonprofit Organization with members all across the country. We are parents with disabled children caught up in the criminal justice system. We are also comprised of professionals. attorneys, journalists, professors, researchers and law enforcement. Our mission is to advocate for change in the criminal justice system for our disabled loved ones with regard to proper sex education specifically aimed at the disabled, training for law enforcement, attorneys (defense and prosecution), judges and prisons and diversion instead of punishment. I have spoken at many conferences and symposiums. I also appeared on the television show Chicago Loop. I have been appointed to the Governor’s Task Force for Disabled People in the Criminal Justice System. I work diligently with in our Organization Decriminalize Developmental Disabilities to help and support our members as well as contacting legislators. I have recently written an article for the online publication “Persuasion”.
I will not stop until my last breath to try and find someone to listen and release our family from this punishment and burden. We are a good family that has suffered humiliation. Our hard-earned money that we saved all our lives for our retirement and for my son’s future care was taken away from us to fight this travesty. My son’s life is in danger every day from the real predators since his name is public record and he is easily taken advantage of. I am grateful for all the support from family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, the Police Department and most strangers who hear this story.