A Cedar Grove mother arrested last year after allegedly allowing underage drinking in her home pleaded not guilty in Newark Superior Court today on charges of child endangerment.
Indicted in May, this was Susan Cuffari’s first superior court appearance since the incident, according to Katherine Carter of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
The indictment came months after Cedar Grove police arrested and charged Cuffari with a disorderly persons offense when a party at her Sweetwood Drive home grew to 100 to 150 teens, two of whom were hospitalized, according to previous reports in the Times. On the evening of Nov. 16, 2013, Cuffari gave her teenage daughter permission to have a gathering with her fellow cheerleaders and members of the football team. Cuffari attests that the party grew out of hand and that she called 911 when she noticed many of the kids had been drinking.
While Cuffari also pleaded not guilty to the disorderly persons charge in municipal court Nov. 27, 2013, the case is still pending, according to Cedar Grove Municipal Deputy Administrator Theresa Platvoet.
Platveot was unable to discuss the municipal court case further.
Cuffari, and her lawyer Peter Russo, say that’s because a gag order is in effect.
Due to the seriousness of the Nov. 16 incident, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office took over the case, presented the facts to a Grand Jury and returned an indictment against Cuffari for child endangerment, according to an email from Cedar Grove Police Chief Richard Vanderstreet.
According to the indictment, Cuffari “knowingly caused her children harm [by] allowing a substantial number of teenagers in her home – for a party where large quantities of alcohol were available and served to [the] teenagers.”
Cuffari remarked at how the entire process has been traumatizing to her and her children. “Its scary. I could go to jail for this,” Cuffari said. If convicted, she could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison, according to Carter.
Cuffari maintains that she did not allow teens to drink at her home and that local police officers made a false report.
“The internal police investigation that I requested was never followed through upon,” Cuffari told the Times.
Vanderstreet disagreed. “All allegations/complaints made against police officers are thoroughly investigated,” he stated in an email.
Today’s arraignment was handled by Assistant Prosecutor Carlo Fioranelli and presided over by Judge Peter V. Ryan.
Cuffari’s next court date is Sept. 15.