Sarah Knakal pleads not guilty to Leandra's Law charges

Sarah Knakal, 30, of Huntington Station, is led Sarah Knakal, 30, of Huntington Station, is led out of the Second Precinct in Huntington Sunday for arraignment in Central Islip Criminal Court on May 11, 2014. Knakal is charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child 15 years old or younger (Leandra's Law), leaving the scene of an incident and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, Suffolk County police said. Photo Credit: James Carbone

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A Huntington Station mother pleaded not guilty Sunday to charges of driving while intoxicated with her three young children as passengers, then crashing the vehicle and fleeing the scene. She also was charged with shoving an investigating police officer.

Sarah Knakal, 30, was accused of violating Leandra's Law Saturday evening on East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station, authorities said. She drove her sport utility vehicle into a telephone pole and a sign before taking the children and abandoning the vehicle, authorities said. Suffolk police found Knakal and the children -- 5, 7 and 9 -- down the block 10 minutes later at the corner of East Jericho Turnpike and Cooper Avenue. No one was injured.

The children were taken from her custody and placed under the care of their father, who lives separately from his wife, authorities said.

The stay-home mother was arraigned Sunday afternoon in First District Court in Central Islip. She arrived in handcuffs and wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt.

She was charged with felony aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child 15 years old or younger under Leandra's Law, misdemeanor child endangerment and harassment of a police officer. She was ordered held in lieu of $30,000 cash or $90,000 bond. Her blood test results are still pending. She made no remarks in court.

Knakal's attorney, Jerome Binder of Hauppauge, who also has been a friend for 18 years, said she had not yet made bail Sunday evening and he was "shocked" by the allegations.

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"She would never intentionally endanger the welfare of her children," Binder said. "She loves her children. Her parents were killed in an accident during [her] high school [years], so she knows the value of family."

Her husband, Ryan Knakal, 32, of Huntington Station, said he was in court to show his support. After the arraignment, he defended his wife as "a great mother" and asked for privacy so his children could focus on schooling.

"Sarah's kids love her," he said. "They love their mother and that will never change."

Binder said he expects a court order of protection preventing Sarah Knakal from seeing her children will be resolved quickly in Family Court so she can be reunited with her children.

Knakal's next court date is Friday.

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