PLEASANTON -- Two sisters facing charges they endangered infants' lives by binding them too tightly in swaddling blankets at a Livermore preschool pleaded not guilty in a Pleasanton courtroom Monday on multiple felony child abuse charges.
Nazila Sharaf, 35, and Lida Sharaf, 33, were freed from custody after posting bail of $340,000 each following their arraignment Thursday afternoon. The sisters, who are both pregnant, will return to court June 5 for a pretrial hearing on three counts of felony child abuse and four counts of misdemeanor child abuse stemming from an investigation by Livermore police into their care of infants at Universal Preschool LLC, at 1040 Florence Road.
Bail was originally set at $700,000 for each woman but was reduced to $340,000 during Thursday's court proceedings.
Lida Sharaf is due to give birth to her second child in July. Nazila Sharaf is expecting her second child in September.
Although swaddling is commonly used to lull newborns to sleep, the Sharafs allegedly put seven babies in danger at the day care center by binding the infants' bodies so tightly they had trouble breathing and couldn't move their arms and legs, police said. It was also reported that they would sometimes throw blankets over the babies' faces while their extremities were bound, rendering them unable to save themselves if they could not breathe.
The Sharaf sisters maintain that they in no way intended to hurt the babies with their swaddling methods, said Timothy Rien, the Sharafs' defense attorney.
"Their contention is that it is not abuse," Rien said. "But nobody is going to take away from a parent their concern for their child when they are in someone else's care."
Doctors examined all of the children who were at the day care center, and none showed signs of injury related to the alleged abuse, Livermore police Officer Steve Goard said.
State officials closed the Livermore facility on March 15 and are seeking to permanently revoke the women's license. Social Services issued bans against the Sharafs from working at any state-licensed child care facilities, department spokesman Michael Weston said. The women filed an appeal to the ban, which will likely trail the criminal proceedings.