Many parents dread pedaling candy, magazine subscriptions and wrapping paper to raise money for their child’s school, but the parental rite of passage became a nightmare for Bernadette Roberts of Bronx, New York, when she was arrested selling $1 chocolate bars near Bryant Park last year.
The funds were intended to help her son take part in a foreign-exchange program in Korea.
Roberts is now suing the police officer who arrested her and the New York Police Department for allegedly breaking department rules and allowing her 15-year-old learning-disabled son to wander around New York for hours in cold weather, DNA Info reported.
Roberts claims Officer Stephanie Hlapatsos arrested her for selling candy without a license while her son was in the restroom of a nearby pharmacy. According to the suit, Roberts’ son suffers from an anxiety disorder, attention-deficit disorder and learning disabilities; his mental and emotional capacities are comparable to someone half his age.
Roberts says she wasn’t able to reach her son until she was permitted to use a phone at the Midtown South Precinct stationhouse.
“He was hysterical, crying, 'Where are you? What happened? I can’t find you. I’m looking all over the place for you,'” Roberts told city lawyers during a preliminary hearing, according to DNA Info.
“I have never been booked, fingerprinted, handcuffed or anything like that ever in my entire 47 at the time going on 48 years,” Roberts said at her preliminary hearing. “So it was quite traumatic for myself and for my son.”
Although the charge against Roberts was dropped, she is seeking unspecified damages.
In 2014, a street vendor was awarded $13,000 to settle a lawsuit against Hlapatsos, who arrested the woman for not being licensed even though, according to court records, she was.