Mother Pleads Not Guilty In Runaway Minivan Case
The Fair Lawn mother who was charged with child endangerment Monday after her unattended minivan carrying her twin infants rolled into parking lot traffic outside of CVS pleaded not guilty Wednesday in municipal court.
NORTHERN NJ -- Natalie Akselrod, a local mother who was charged with child endangerment Monday after her unattended minivan carrying her two infant children rolled backwards out of its parking spot at a CVS and into parking lot traffic, pleaded not guilty Wednesday and had her case sent up to county court.
Akselrod was among dozens of accused individuals who filled the municipal court room Wednesday to appear before judge Steven Schechter. Her court appearance, which was heavily attended by television news crews, lasted only a few brief minutes.
Akselrod pleaded not guility to the child endangerment charges -- which carry a maximum fine of $150,000 and five to 10 years imprisonment -- and her case was bumped up to the county prosecutor's office.
"Because of the nature of the offense, this court lacks jurisdiction over the matter," Schechter said. "The matter has to be sent up to the Bergen County prosecutor’s office. The Bergen County prosecutor will determine whether to downgrade the charge and remand it back to this court, dismiss the charge or to present it to a grand jury for an indictment."
Cornered by reporters and camera crews after the arraignment, the Fair Lawn mother and her husband, Dan, declined comment. On Tuesday, Akselrod called her decision to leave her six-month old twins in the car as she rushed into the Radburn CVS to fill a prescription for one of them a "momentary lapse of judgment," but reiterated that she was a good mother.
Her lawyer, Stephen Schwartz stuck around after Akselrod's arraignment to answer questions.
“It’s very unfortunate under these circumstances that she even has to deal with this," Schwartz said, referring to Akselrod's charges, which he called 'unnecessary.'
"I think we all have seen pretty much the entire case at this point and there’s really nothing more that can be said about it. I really think that at the end of the day this case is going away.”
Schwartz said it's his goal to have the case either entirely dismissed or knocked down to minor municipal charges that carry inconsequential penalties.
“I think this is over for Fair Lawn," he said. "It’s just going to be a bunch of little procedural steps until we have ultimately dismissed this case. No attorney, not even the prosecutor in there, thinks that this case is going anywhere.”
Schwartz said Akselrod decided to speak out on Tuesday as a way of showing that she's really a good mom and a decent person who got caught up in an unfortunate situation.
"She's just an innocent person caught up in a very, very big nightmare," he said.
Schwartz said he was certain Akselrod would not make the same mistake a second time, regardless of the circumstances.
“That’s never going to happen again," he said. "I think the babysitters of America just got a nice plug.”
Akselrod must appear at the criminal case manager's office in Hackensack by end-of-day Friday so that her next court date can be set.