A Bronx mom blamed for a fire that killed her two young daughters appeared with a newborn Thursday in court where she turned down a no-plea jail deal, her lawyer said.
Haya Konte, 26, has been charged with two counts of criminally negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of a child for leaving her two girls in an apartment with burning incense at the Butler Houses in Claremont in April while she was across the street washing laundry.
Konte’s kids, Jainabu Jabbie, 2, and Adama Jabbie, 18 months, perished in the blaze after incense sparked the fire and flames quickly filled the third-floor apartment.
Witnesses said at the time that the visibly pregnant Konte collapsed on the sidewalk — shouting “My babies!” — as emergency responders carried the burned bodies out of the building.
Konte, a West African immigrant from Gambia, has since given birth, and appeared in court with the newborn girl — who will never meet her sisters — in a stroller.
Konte, who remained free on her own recognizance after surrendering her passport, had already prevailed in a family court challenge to remove the new child from her custody.
But instead of accepting a deal with prosecutors that would have kept her out of jail — and with her baby — Konte is considering risking it all by taking a chance with a jury. But a guilty plea, even on a lesser charge, could trigger a deportation proceeding that could send her back to Gambia.
“It looks like we’re not ready to resolve this case,” said Judge William Mogulescu.
As both sides continue to negotiate terms of a plea, the case was adjourned to next month.
About a dozen family members were in court to support her. Konte is currently living with two of her sisters and the baby.
Konte’s lawyer, Karen Smolar, declined to discuss the role non-functioning smoke alarms played in the Webster Ave. fire.
“Whether the smoke alarms worked or not has no bearing on this case,” Smolar said.
According to a city report, a maintenance worker lied on a form, claiming smoke detectors in the apartment were fully functional.
The falsifying of records in the Bronx case led to a probe by the Department of Investigation that found lying about safety checks in NYCHA apartments was routine.
A recent random inspection of 240 apartments supposedly checked by maintenance workers showed that in more than half the homes, there was at least one safety feature missing. That includes missing or broken smoke detectors.