Mentally Disabled Man Jailed for Week, Parents Not Notified

The man languished in the Bergen County jail without his medication and without any acknowledgement of his needs, his family says

By Tracie Strahan
|  Friday, Sep 20, 2013  |  Updated 5:27 AM CDT
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A developmentally disabled man's parents are outraged that he spent a week in a New Jersey jail without anyone recognizing his problems or notifying them, his legal guardians. Tracie Strahan has the story.

NBC 4 New York

A developmentally disabled man's parents are outraged that he spent a week in a New Jersey jail without anyone recognizing his problems or notifying them, his legal guardians. Tracie Strahan has the story.

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A developmentally disabled man's parents are outraged that he spent a week in a New Jersey jail without anyone recognizing his problems or notifying them, his legal guardians.
 

Walter Bartolomucci is 28, but his parents say he functions at the level of a 9-year-old, needing constant reminders to perform simple tasks, like brushing his teeth.
 
Bartolomucci was arrested Sept. 11 at a Bergenfield Pathmark store, where he had gone with his cousin. Police say the cousin persuaded Bartolomucci to put some videos in a bag and steal them, and when Bartolomucci was caught, he allegedly swung the bag at a store employee trying to stop him.
 
He was arrested on charges of robbery and assault, and told NBC 4 New York he was nervous and cried in the police car.
 
His mother, Joanie Bartolomucci, says police could clearly see when her son was arrested that he was mentally disabled. It's obvious that he's disabled, as soon as he starts talking, she says.
 
"You can see that, clearly, that he was special, and it wasn't taken care of properly," she said. "Special needs -- they need to be treated differently." 
 
Bergenfield police told NBC 4 New York that Walter Bartolomucci was mentally sound enough to be placed in custody. 
 
The family says things got worse when he was taken to the Bergen County jail, where he didn't have medication he takes for nervous spells. He had one of those spells in police custody, his mother said.
 
"Some of the guards know about my special needs, some of the guards treat me mean," he said.
 
Meanwhile, his parents were worried about where he had gone. They eventually found out from a family friend that he had been locked up.
 
"We were never notified as his parents and his guardians, we were never notified of anything," Joanie Bartolomucci said.
 
The family wasn't able to post the $50,000 bail, so Walter Bartolomucci waited in a cell for six days. He was finally released on Tuesday with no explanation, and no bail required.
 
Walter Bartolomucci's lawyer said his client was released after prosecutors reviewed the circumstances of the case, and then dropped the robbery and assault charges. He still faces a disorderly person charge.
  

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