MANASQUAN, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP)– An attorney says a young autistic man in New Jersey was offered several choices before he jumped off a jetty into the freezing ocean as part of a prank.
During opening statements Tuesday, attorney Jason Volet said Parker Drake refused to eat a hamster for money or walk into the ocean from the beach for two packs of cigarettes. Instead, he said the 20-year-old decided to jump from the jetty for the cigarettes and $20.
“This is not a case where these two men…grabbed Mr. Drake… and threw him in the water off the jetty,” Volet said in his opening arguments, as reported by NJ.com.
Volet’s client, Nicholas Formica, and Christopher Tilton are charged with endangering the welfare of an incompetent person. The 21-year-olds are accused of coaxing Drake to jump from the jetty in Manasquan in February 2015 and posting a video of the prank on social media.
Dr. Peter Ganime, who diagnosed Drake and has treated him for more than five years, said that he has Tourette’s syndrome, pervasive development disorder, adjustment distorder, Asperger Syndrome, diabeted, and mid-level global functioning, NJ.com reported.
Ganime was the first witness called by prosecutors and that Drake’s disabilities could make him vulnerable to manipulation and poor judgement.
The case led lawmakers to increase the penalty for the crime.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)