A New York City public school teacher from Long Island pleaded not guilty Tuesday to felony charges after she was found slumped over the wheel of her car and admitted she drank “half a pint of vodka” before driving her 3-year-old daughter home from the doctor, police said.
Danielle Kalberer, 34, of Westbury, was charged under Leandra’s Law with aggravated driving while intoxicated as a felony, endangering the welfare of a child, seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, two counts of driving while intoxicated and aggravated DWI. She pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Tuesday morning at Nassau First District Court in Hempstead. Judge Joy Watson ordered her held on $10,000 bail or $15,000 bond.
Nassau County police said Kalberer, who a source identified as an elementary school teacher at PS 24 in Flushing, Queens, was found slumped over the wheel of her 2012 Toyota Camry after a passerby flagged down a detective to report she might have been driving drunk. Court papers said Kalberer was found with “glassy bloodshot eyes,” had slurred speech and smelled of alcohol. Her 3-year-old daughter was in the backseat, police said.
Kalberer allegedly told cops she was headed home after taking her daughter, who suffers from spina bifida, to see a doctor in Lake Success. At her arraignment Tuesday, a prosecutor said an empty pint of vodka was found on the passenger’s seat and she allegedly told an officer at the scene that she “drank a half of a pint.” A breath test showed Kalberer’s blood-alcohol content was .25 percent – more than three times the legal limit – about two hours after she was arrested, according to a report prepared by police.
Police said she was also found with a Tramadol pill – a narcotic pain reliever – and admitted to having taken Xanax and snorted cocaine the night before, court papers said. “I’m so f—d up I don’t remember how or who stopped me,” Kalberer told a police lieutenant, according to the court documents. “Do you need to know I just got out of rehab for drugs?”
Kalberer’s defense attorney, Anthony Colleluori, said his client was “facing a difficult situation” and that her husband will be released from a drug rehab in a few days. “She’s basically alone right now,” Colleluori told Nassau District Court Judge Joy Watson. “She has been fighting an addiction.”
Watson signed an order of protection that prohibits Kalberer from seeing or contacting her daughter. Prosecutors said child welfare officials were also involved. Police said the girl was released to a family member at the scene Monday afternoon.
A group of Kalberer’s family declined to comment as they covered their faces with jackets on the way out of court. Kalberer, who was released after posting bail, is due back in court on Nov. 18. A city schools source said she cannot return the classroom, pending the outcome of her criminal case.