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After Disney Arrest, Grandma Wants $18M

Hester Burkhalter says 15-hour ordeal over the CBD oil in her purse was 'humiliating'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2020 9:09 AM CDT
Updated Aug 9, 2020 10:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – Mickey Mouse had grandma arrested, and now she wants payback. Hester Burkhalter of Hickory, NC, is seeking $6 million in compensatory damages and $12 million in punitive damages, plus several million more for her family, following her April 2019 arrest at Disney World, per CNN. The Orange County Sheriff's Office responded after Burkhalter was found in possession of cannabidiol oil during a bag check at Magic Kingdom. Burkhalter said her doctor had prescribed the "federally legal CBD oil," which is derived from the cannabis plant, to soothe her arthritis. But police said the oil contained THC, the psychoactive property in cannabis, and arrested the 69-year-old for possession of hashish; the one-ounce bottle was labeled "zero THC." The charge was dropped days later, but not before Burkhalter was told to strip naked and "bend over" for a body cavity search during a 15-hour ordeal, her lawsuit reads.

"It was the most humiliating day of my life," Burkhalter said at a Wednesday news conference. Her complaint naming the sheriff’s office and the Walt Disney Company further claims she was denied medical care during a panic attack she suffered in the police vehicle that caused her to vomit. "I even told them that I could not breathe,” said Burkhalter. "The only comment was that one officer who said, 'She's throwing up,' like it was no big deal." She's represented by civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who also represents the family of George Floyd. He says Burkhalter was arrested in front of young family members, who asked, "Why would Mickey Mouse arrest grandma?" The defendants "cannot give back what they stole ... her dignity, her sense of pride, and her esteemed role as matriarch of her family," he adds, per the Orlando Sentinel. The outlet reports the oil was technically illegal in Florida at the time, though it was legal at the federal level. (Read more Walt Disney Co. stories.)

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