Massachusetts Mother Sues School and Police for Son’s Arrest

WEST NEWBURY, Mass. – A mother of a student who was arrested in 2006 for possessing a controlled substance filed a lawsuit seeking $5 million from the board of selectmen, police department and Pentucket School Committee alleging her son’s rights were violated.

The plaintiff, Christina Delotto, claims school administrators and police unlawfully searched her son Robert’s backpack and questioned him without a lawyer being present, therefore violating his civil rights. Delotto also charges police with assault and battery when Robert was handcuffed to a bench for two hours.

The incident occurred Oct. 19, 2006 at Pentucket High School. Assistant Principal John Seymour asked a then 16-year-old Robert about his day planner, which had been discovered in the lost and found with a swastika-like shape on the cover, according to the lawsuit. The student denied drawing the symbol.

Seymour then began searching the boy’s backpack without permission, after demanding to look at Delotto’s other books. According to the lawsuit, while searching the backpack, Seymour found a plastic bag containing over-the-counter Ripped Fuel diet pills. The pills contained ephedra, chemically similar to the drug amphetamine. Seymour contacted the local authorities and Officer James Riley arrived and tested the pills with a field drug analysis kit. Riley then determined the pills to be amphetamines or methamphetamines.

Former Chief Jonathon Dennis also used the drug test to determine the drugs were illegal. According to the lawsuit, neither Dennis nor Riley were trained to use the drug kit.

Delotto was charged with possessing a controlled substance and was handcuffed and led out of the school in front of his classmates, the lawsuit states. Upon his arrival, Delotto was handcuffed to a bench for two hours and interrogated by police without having a lawyer present. While the lawsuit does not mention whether or not Delotto agreed to the interrogation, it does state that he could not make a knowing waiver of the Miranda rights given the stress of the situation.

In January 2007, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health studied the pills and concluded there were no illegal drugs present. Eventually, the charges against the boy were dropped.

The Delotto’s are seeking $2.5 million in compensation and $2.5 million in punitive damages.

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