Lawsuit Over Boy with Autism's Alleged Attacks Heads to Trial

The parents of an 11-year-old boy with autism were back in court Wednesday to face their former neighbors from Sunnyvale, four of which are suing over the boy's alleged assaults.

The Gopal family said they feel the charges of assault are "overblown," which the plaintiffs strongly disagree with. After meetings, negotiations and mediation, the case will go to trial.

"We'd like to resolve this in a way that is beneficial not just for the community, but for the boy himself," neighbor Kumaran Santhanam said.

Plaintiff Robert Flowers said he wholeheartedly agrees his neighbor's son has rights, but stressed no one has the right to assault his child. Flowers said his 4-year-old son was attacked by the boy.

"The boy came over and ripped him off his bike, threw him down on the ground and shook him by his hair while four adults were trying to pry him away," Flowers said. "And then he started stomping on my son's back."

The plaintiffs said their case is not about the boy's autism, but about parental responsibility.

"It's about assaults on our children. There's been a history, a long history of assaults and batteries," Flowers said. "And some point it reached a boiling point where we have to say no more."

The boy's parents said the allegations of their son's attacks have been "grossly exaggerated."

"I'd say that is absolutely ridiculous," said Areva Martin, an attorney representing the Gopal family. "One of the families doesn't even live in the neighborhood anymore. So to say this is about protecting their own children is absolutely absurd."

The family's former neighbors said they waited eight months to file a formal lawsuit, enduring multiple attacks before taking action.

"The focus here is public safety," Santhanam said. "And the focus is how the parents can achieve that public safety by taking responsibility for their son's behavior."

The trial is set for December 2016.

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