Doctor Explains Disorder After Abduction Charge Dropped - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Doctor Explains Disorder After Abduction Charge Dropped

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When news broke Monday that charges against James Key were dropped because prosecutors say the attempted abduction in Fashion Square Mall was caused by a seizure, NBC29's Facebook page erupted with commentary.  

On Monday, Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford said James Key was not a threat to the community.  The prosecutor in the case said Key suffers from seizures and had one the November day he grabbed a child at Fashion Square Mall in Albemarle County. The 46-year-old was facing a felony abduction charge, but it was dropped.

Comments ranged from calling the decision to drop the charges an 'enormous mistake' to empathizing with those who suffer from seizures. With so many unanswered questions and different opinions surrounding the case and Key's disorder, NBC29 set out to find answers.

Key's doctor, Dr. Nathan Fountain, spoke with NBC29 on Tuesday and explained the disorder - complex partial seizures - and described its side effects. 

"People aren't unconscious they don't fall down and jerk all over the place during a complex partial seizure. Instead they just stare," said Fountain, a neurologist.

Fountain says these seizures cause people to be unaware of their actions and, in many cases, they can lead to inappropriate behavior when they happen to be in a public place - like a mall in Key's case. 

"There are instances where someone does something socially inappropriate during a seizure. Fortunately, it's never with any malicious intent and so it almost never results in any harm," said Fountain.  

While the seizures may cause inappropriate actions, they are brief - usually lasting around three minutes - meaning they don't justify criminal behavior.

"So to say that I robbed a bank because I had a seizure wouldn't make any sense because that's a complex behavior that goes on for a long time," said Fountain.

In Key's case, Fountain says it is pretty clear-cut that he was suffering from a seizure and picked up what was in front of him - it just happened to be a two-year-old girl.

This unintentional response is still something doctors can't get to the bottom of.

"Why it causes people to particularly manipulate things and pick them up and hug them and have lip-smacking, we don't really know," said Fountain.  

Fountain also says it's important for people to be aware of the disorder.

"People have medical conditions and if it doesn't lead to any particular harm it's just surprising and offensive maybe, but they don't have control over it and I think it's important to recognize that," said Fountain.

Three percent of the population has epilepsy and Fountain says seizures that consist of staring are actually the most common.

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