A 20-year-old baby sitter charged with felony child abuse after a hidden nanny camera allegedly caught her trying to smother a child who wouldn't stop crying pleaded not guilty on Friday during her arraignment.
Before court, Moriah Pulani Gonzales of Livermore, was seen smiling and holding her sister's hand and walking next to her high-profile criminal defense attorney, William DuBois. Her mother was also present. The young woman did not speak to reporters.
Outside the Alameda County Superior Courthouse in Pleasanton, DuBois said his client would never harm a child. "It's not in her nature," he said.
In an exclusive interview with NBC Bay Area Thursday afternoon, the victim's mother, Amanda Von Glahn, said she was "absolutely heartbroken" and disgusted. "I have a knot in my stomach that I can't get rid of until this day because of what I saw," Von Glahn said. "I hope she's held responsible for what she did ... she's held accountable and she doesn't victimize any family ever again."
The Alameda County District Attorney charged Gonzales on Feb. 22. She was booked and released from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin ahead of her arraignment. Her next court date was set for April 8.
According to the police report attached to Gonzales' charging documents, two mothers, identified only as Amanda and Nicole, called Livermore police on Feb. 18 to say their 13-month-old son had been abused, and the act was captured on a secret camera in their toddler’s room.
DuBois hinted after court that the boy's mothers are police officers themselves in another county and had a cozy relationship with police, which is why, he said, officers jumped all over the case "enthusiastically and instantaneously." He also said no doctor examined the child, and there was no evidence the boy even suffered any injury.
DuBois added that the mothers had seen the video and then sent Gonzales to the park the following day with the boy. The mothers fired Gonzales the day after that. When reached at their Livermore home Friday afternoon, one of the mothers, holding the smiling baby boy, politely declined comment.
Footage from that video showed the nanny pacing back and forth, apparently trying to calm the boy, according to the police report. After bouncing him up and down, she lowered him into his crib with her hands near his face.
Her back was to the camera, but the child's "clear audible" crying changed to a "muffled cry," the report states. After a few seconds, the boy began to squirm and kick, then went limp.
Police said Gonzales then picked the boy up and released her hands from his face, at which point he again began to cry. She placed him back in the crib and left the room.
When police interviewed her Feb. 19, Gonzales provided a statement "completely inconsistent" with the video and was surprised to learn a camera had been in the room, authorities said. She "insisted" she didn’t put the boy down for a nap and denied hurting him in any way, according to the report.
Neighbor Jim Ward, whose daughter is friends with Gonzales, found the allegations shocking.
"She seems like a normal person," Ward said in a previous interview. "She's a normal girl."
Gonzales advertised her services on the popular baby-sitting website Care.com, which touts itself as the "largest online destination for care." On its website, the company says it is not responsible for the "conduct of any care provider or care seeker."
"Care.com provides information and tools to help care seekers and care providers connect and make informed decisions," the site says.
Background checks are not required. Parents can choose to do their own background checks on baby sitters and must pay for the service. It's unclear whether the mothers in this case checked out Gonzales first.
In a statement, the company apologized and said it's working with police.
"We are deeply troubled by this incident and our thoughts are with the family," the statement read. "The safety of our community is of paramount importance to us and we have proactively contacted local law enforcement to provide whatever assistance we can in this matter."
NBC Bay Area's Lisa Fernandez, Bob Redell and Henry Mulak contributed to this report.