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MOTHER GETS 'FINAL CHANCE' TO KICK HABIT

A Buffalo woman who left her twin baby daughters in her hot car while she was off smoking crack cocaine on Labor Day was spared a jail term today. But a judge warned that this was her "final chance" to turn around her life and avoid a lengthy prison term.

Megan K. Smith, 26, was placed on probation for the next five years and ordered to continue inpatient and community-based drug addiction treatment. Erie County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka imposed the terms on her Sept. 28 guilty plea to felony reckless endangerment and child endangerment charges.

Pietruszka also ordered the Huntington Avenue woman to submit to the Erie County Probation Department's electronic monitoring program until further notice, and to continue the drug treatment programs until "successfully discharged."

Smith spent nearly a month in jail after being arrested as she tried to hide from police near railroad tracks between Dewey and Kensington avenues about 2 p.m. Sept. 6. Pietruszka said today he was sparing her further jail time because of her continuing efforts to rehabilitate herself.

Smith sees her twin daughters, Emily K. Stein and Allie J. Stein, for two hours every Sunday during supervised visits with her mother, who is caring for them. She became tearful as she told the judge she was "very sorry for what I did and very thankful for the treatment" she has been getting.

Smith and her attorney, Keith D. Perla, declined comment as they left court.

During the sentencing proceeding, Perla told the judge Smith has already successfully completed one inpatient drug program and will shortly enter a second and continue with a community-based drug treatment program until mid-February.

At the request of prosecutor Thomas E. Fowler Jr., the judge issued orders of protection for Smith's 15-month-old twin daughters. The orders, while allowing Smith to see the twins, threaten her with jail should she mistreat them in any way. After the sentencing, Fowler said those orders of protection will remain in force, pending further Family Court proceedings Smith faces.

Fowler said police responding to a "good Samaritan" 911 call found the girls crying inside Smith's locked, hot parked car in the 100 block of Brewster Street while she was at a nearby crack house. She was found about two hours after her children's noontime rescue, Fowler said. Temperatures the day of the incident were in the mid-80s, court officials said.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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