NEW YORK -- A father whose young twins died after being left in a sweltering car pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment Tuesday and will avoid prison.
Juan Rodriguez, 39, appeared at a virtual hearing and pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor.
He avoided jail time with a conditional discharge, which would be voided if he is arrested within the next year.
"For the rest of his life, he will be scarred by what happened here," defense attorney Joey Jackson said. "He will feel really badly by what has occurred here. So I don't think today is any vindication for him."
Rodriguez was initially charged with felony counts of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, as well as misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child, in the deaths of his two children, Luna and Phoenix, last July
"The defendant, Juan Rodriguez, left his 1-year-old twins in the backseat of his car for hours while he went to work," Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said. "The children were strapped in their car seats throughout the hot summer day, with no windows open. These babies suffered horribly, and we owed them a thorough investigation. This was a tragic, unfortunate incident. I hope that as the sweltering weather is upon us, caregivers will be extra vigilant about children in vehicles."
The case was adjourned numerous times while the district attorney investigated whether to seek a grand jury indictment.
He remained free on $100,000 bail, and defense attorneys maintained the case was a tragic accident.
"He lost his precious beautiful children," Jackson said. "But I think he is also relieved that he doesn't have go through this process and face countless years in jail."
Rodriguez, from New City in Rockland County, admitted to police that he left his twin babies in the car for hours on July 26.
He told police he dropped off his 4-year-old son Tristan at a Westchester daycare but forgot that his twins were in their rear-facing car seats.
Rodriguez told police he then drove to work at the VA Medical Center in the Bronx around 8 a.m. and parked his car with the twins inside.
He said he returned to his car eight hours later and started to drive away, according to police. He drove for two blocks before discovering the children, foaming at the mouth and lifeless.
Police said he pulled over and screamed for help. Rodriguez was charged the next day.
Rodriguez is a licensed clinical social worker and an Army veteran who served in Iraq.