“It’s not that people with Asperger syndrome do not know right for wrong,’’ Jekel said. “They don’t understand the potential consequence of what they are doing.’’
But Jason Evan Mihalko, a Cambridge psychologist who has worked with such patients, said it’s hard to imagine the disorder would spur someone to break into retail computer networks to steal millions of credit card numbers and then sell the data. Prosecutors allegedly seized more than $1.6 million from Gonzalez, including more than $1 million buried in his parents’ backyard.
Mihalko said the vast majority of people with Asperger syndrome never commit a crime. And when people do get in trouble, it’s typically because they take one of their obsessions too far - someone with trains, for instance, might break into a train to find out how it works. Or someone interested in electronics might steal a device to take it apart. But he said that does not mean people with Asperger syndrome can’t understand that stealing credit card data is wrong.
“Most everyone learns in school - or from parents - that stealing is wrong,’’ Mihalko said. “It’s no different for kids with Asperger’s.’’