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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  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.

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Jack V May 24, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Good Advice for that mother next time, which I think shouldn't go to prison, but should be punished somehow for a mistake that could have been fatal: Go to the new CVS on Maple and River next time, they have a drive thru.
The Most Interesting Man in the World May 24, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Warren, I think you have it wrong, obviuosly not every call results in an arrest. Their job is to serve the public, so they go to the place of an incident and handle it in a reasonable manner. They should have extended a helping hand instead of a mindless arrest. Fair Lawn is a very safe place, both statisically and in reality, so don't make it out to be Fort Appache...places where real crime happens this mother having an issue like this would not even raise an eyebrow nevermind an arrest.
Ana May 24, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Agree.
Wendy S Dabney May 24, 2012 at 03:15 PM
FYI.. The doctor can fax or phone a prescription, she just needed to ask. She could then pick it up @ one of Fair Lawn's two drive through pharmacies. Or ask someone to do it for her. I would expect better critical thinking skills in a mother described as multiply licensed, certified and experienced. And by the way, the police don't make the laws or pass the sentence. That's what the courts are for. They don't know she is the world class mother described when they respond to an unattended , improperly parked car with two kids inside. What if the minivan had rolled over another child? If the police let her go, and the children later came to harm, th police would be castigated. No, Fair Lawn is not Fort Apache. I've lived here since 1987. A car jacking or a child abduction can happen anywhere. And children frying to death in closed cars nationwide remains a problem.....And while we're on the topic of child passenger safety: The guy whose kid jumped out of the car and ran toward the Raritan River this week OBVIOUSLY did not have the child safety locks in use on the passenger doors. If he had, his car wouldn't have ended up in the river. Caregivers need to READ the Car seat and the vehicle owners manuals. The courts should require that parents in these situations attend Infant and Child Safety Classes that are given at hospitals. It seems as though those providing care for other peoples' kids also need education!
Warren G May 24, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Fair lawn is a safe place. That is because of the good job our police officers do. It is not for apache but it is also not Mayberry. All I'm saying is that the police can't not look the other way in certain types of calls. I agree with Wendy. Police don't make the laws. The maximum penalty is very stiff and she should not receive that even if she is found guilty. But something should be done. This could have ended up very badly.
The Most Interesting Man in the World May 24, 2012 at 04:28 PM
I don't know Warren, I think I saw Goober pumping gas at the filling station on Plaza Rd., so it is much more like Mayberry than you want to admit. Fair Lawn is safe because of who lives here more than anything. There is just very little real crime and criminals do not commit a crime in front of police anyway. The police are there to solve problems, not make them worse. They don't make the laws, but my opinion is that none were violated. They should have helped the mother instead and everyone concerned would ave better served, which is my point. Who really benefits from the way this has been handled? Nobody.
Stuart Pace May 24, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Goober died a few weeks ago.
Wendy S Dabney May 24, 2012 at 04:37 PM
In any case, the incident provides a teachable moment for everyone who hears about it. Laws and ordinances are not all about enforcement and penalties.... they provide a heads up to people about activities that might be harmful to themselves and others. Laws are necessary because people are often self absorbed, but not self aware. PS, you have misspelled 'interesting.'
Lin May 24, 2012 at 05:16 PM
CVS on Broadway has a drive thru...Would have been a better choice, prescriptions can be transferred.. Walgreens on River Road also has a drive thru..She made a very bad judgement, I don't think she deserves jail time though..
The Most Interesting Man in the World May 24, 2012 at 06:20 PM
That's right, it must have his cousin Gomer then. I seen the obit with him wearing his less than scholarly looking Goober hat. Imagine being memorilaize in a Goober hat.
Jenne May 24, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Dude, I'm not sure how being in a car drifting into parking lot traffic outside the CVS 'could have been fatal'-- admittedly people drive like maniacs in that lot at certain times of the day, but even if the car was hit, the babies would still have been pretty safe in their car seats in the minivan. That's why they make car seats like that. Leaving your car in neutral in a parking lot-- pretty unsafe; what if she had gotten her kids out, put them in a stroller, and the car had rolled into *them*? Panicking and not going to a CVS with a drive through-- or at least one that doesn't have the Wait of Doom like the Radburn one does-- not the best move, unless the doctor HAD called in the prescription to that one. But let's not exaggerate the possible consequences.
The Most Interesting Man in the World May 24, 2012 at 06:32 PM
You understand my point, laws were created to make a better society to live in, it's not about the power of "gotcha, now pay me" and I am going to arrest you because I can. There are so many laws on the books that I am probably violating one right now for misspelling my own name, which actually might make me even more interesting.
LB May 24, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Whether or not this woman is educated, etc. doesn't matter. There are lots of "book smart" people with NO COMMON SENSE, which seems to be this woman's short-coming. I raised two children and there were many times that they had severe ear infections. I made many trips to the pharmacy and had no choice but to bring my children in with me. I NEVER left either one unattended ANYWHERE for ANY reason. Particularly in this day and age this "educated"woman should have known better that leaving those innocent babies in an unattended vehicle is considered child endangerment. I don't know about jail time, though. Perhaps she should be fined and make a donation to a worthy cause for children.
JW May 24, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Many of the posters here are missing the point. No matter who she is, the fact is that each case has to stand on its own merits in terms of how it is handled. "Momentary lapse of judgement" sounds like a nice term but it belies what actually happened. Correct me if i am wrong, but a modern car cannot remain in neutral with the key removed. So the key was probably in the car. Perhaps not, and that would be one less problem for sure. But there is NEVER an excuse to leave a child unattended in a vehicle even for a minute. How many kidnappings occur because a kidnapper looked for that "just a minute" opportunity. How many carjackings occur because of the opportunity presented to the criminal. Also, here, the very reason that a vehicle should not be left unattended like this actually occurred! Namely, it rolled into the street!! God forbid had this resulted in major damage, injury or death everyone would be up in arms and reacting very differently. And although it did not, it could have. And that is the message that must be sent loud and clear. It only takes a minute for a tragedy to occur. So please, all you apologists for her, stop trying to minimize the stupidity by lauding her other attirbutes. Stop blaming the police, as if they made the even occur. They did the correct thing by arresting her and then getting to the bottom of this. Do I thnk she should get jail time-no I do not. Should she get psychiatric evaluation? Yes just to make sure.
t May 24, 2012 at 11:54 PM
It's amazing that the law provides stricter pentalties for a mom who makes a mistake than pedophiles.
Natalie May 25, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Common sense tells me that if this woman was punished, maybe other parents would think twice about leaving their kids in the car. Those kids could have died, and other kids have died when they were left in the car. "how are you or I or society made better by treating this mother of twins like a criminal and sending her to jail?" - She will learn her lesson and other parents will learn an important lesson too. It is not ok to leave babies alone in a car. Ever.
Natalie May 25, 2012 at 12:52 AM
"Very cautious mothers" don't leave babies alone in cars. I don't care how hard she works, how active she is in the community, how much she pays in taxes, or how many people respect her. She endangered her children.
Natalie May 25, 2012 at 12:54 AM
I agree. Not only does she need to know it's not ok, but a message needs to be sent to other parents. Maybe it doesn't occur to them that it's dangerous to leave kids in the car, but it will register that if they do it they could go to jail. Unfortunately, that's more of a threat to some parents than the fear of endangering their children.
1BrianWorkman1 May 25, 2012 at 06:50 AM
A thousand dollar fine for each child in the car, and a thousand hours of community service, to be completed in the next five years, or six month's in jail, and five thousand dollar fine! Make your choice!! Anymore child endangerment complaints, and she looses the children for good!!
mary May 25, 2012 at 09:39 AM
yes its seems as if she cld have practiced common sense...but lets be honest...she was lucky none were hurt this car could have killed her kids or rolled unto elderly person who cannot move away quickly enough or simply someone not paying attention.....these are not simpler times, where you cld leave children unattended.....and yet everyday i notice parents who do just that! walking yards ahead too busy reading emails and texts on phones...while young kids walk slowly behind them...just too easy for predator to roll up on them run grab and drive away---or still letting them wander on their own in public! How many times have a confronted a small child and asked , "wheres yr mommy?!"
mary May 25, 2012 at 09:46 AM
find it hard to think that someone who is an educator , could act so carelessly...if she's fully aware of child safety,...then she just chose to practice none? purposely? your obviously a friend and are trying to help, but yr own comments are damning her! As they prove she should have known better and just acted recklessly---a car rolling into traffic can kill others not just unattended children inside! Stupidity is not an excuse and while I'm sure no harm was intended, but proper caution should be practiced---especially by someone whom by your words...should have known better---is not some teen mom....she has to prove she is responsible as her behavior clearly showed she was NOT!
mary May 25, 2012 at 09:50 AM
yr IQ comes into question, when looking to defend a friend ---you make demeaning remarks you feel describe someone you have no knowledge of.....
mary May 25, 2012 at 09:54 AM
i understand what you mean, and how you sympathetic for her...wld you have felt the same way had the car rolled into traffic hurting or killing someone? Many deaths cause by those who didn't set out to cause any harm...and yet it does happen because of laziness....stupidity /laziness is NOT an excuse!
mary May 25, 2012 at 09:59 AM
p.s.- this type of error can also affect her career choice as an educator......neglect of kids left unattended goes into her permanent record till youngest child is 21 yrs old and CPS will check into her parenting ---although she may eventually be cleared this record will continue...should have acted accordingly.
Jack V May 25, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Kidnapping, exactly what I meant by my comment of "fatal". Still I don't think 10 years in prison is the answer. I do not blame the police, nor applaud her actions, just believe the law is harsh.
Jack V May 25, 2012 at 12:21 PM
I'd agree with this penalty.
Cindy Evans May 25, 2012 at 05:16 PM
I'm sure that all of you posting here have never made a mistake in parenting, done the wrong thing or even something stupid. We are all quick to judge but if you were the one who made the mistake, you too would be hoping for leniency.
Jim S. May 25, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Fortunately, for Natalie Akserod none if you will be the Judge assigned to hear her case. I do not thaink the police did anything wrong they charged her based in their evaluation of the situation. However, she will not go to jail and case should be handled with fairness and understanding. Every case stands on its own facts. She may face some form of penalty but she should not be treated like a criminal because she is not a criminal. She is a woman who momentarily failed to exercise common sense. What she may receive is a diversionary program like pre trial interventiin if the prosecutor chooses not to downgrade the charge to a misdemeanor and send it back to Fair Lawn. I doubt she would ever make such a mistake again.
Jim S. May 25, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Too bad I never proof read this stuff before it posts.
LiarsandVillians May 26, 2012 at 10:45 PM
I like her hat, fuitcake!

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