Relatives of slain teens want tougher DWI law

Joining with MADD, they say a ticket isn't sufficient

PATERSON -- Family members of the two teenage girls
killed by a passing car in Kinnelon last month said
Wednesday that they need the public's help to make
driving while intoxicated more than a motor vehicle
violation, in New Jersey.

They spoke at a press conference in an Islamic Center
on Wednesday afternoon.

Mayada Jafar, 15, of Kinnelon and her cousin, Athear
Jafar, 16, of Jefferson, were walking from Mayada's
house to a movie theatre at 8 p.m. April 20 when they
were struck by a car driven by Eugene Baum of Dover,
police said. Authorities said Baum admitted to
drinking a half-liter of vodka before getting into his
car. He also told police he was taking an anti-anxiety

While Baum is facing two counts of death by auto, he
was issued summonses for driving while intoxicated and
reckless driving, both motor vehicle violations.
During his arraignment April 21, he handed over his
driver's license.

Within a week he had posted $100,000 bail and was
freed from Morris County jail, pending a trial.

The Jafar family believes driving while intoxicated is
too severe a crime to just get a ticket.

MADD, Islamic view

At the press conference, a representative from the
Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national
civil rights group for Muslims, and the state director
of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, addressed a small
crowd of reporters,

Teresa S. Stevens, the state executive director of
MADD, based in Trenton said that DWIs are considered
motor vehicle violations. Though alcohol-related
fatalities have declined overall, she said 270 deaths
in New Jersey in 2004 were attributable to alcohol.
She added that the figures in 2005 may be higher and
that early figures of 2006 indicate another spike. All
of this, she said, is alarming especially because it
is before the peek season of drunk-drivers.

Yet New Jersey still hasn't criminalized DWIs, though
there is legislation being worked on, Stevens said.
"The families' cries for justice are very familiar:
270 families had the same cry last year."

James R. Sues of South Orange, vice president of
CAIR's New Jersey office said no one was being
critical of the Morris County Prosecutor's Office
handling of the case thus far, a point reiterated by
family members.

"It's not as if Muslims' civil rights are being
violated here," Sues said. "We're just trying to work
with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to highlight the
importance of preventing this kind of behavior."

Prosecution ongoing

"Our investigation is continuing and we will prosecute
the matter as vigorously and expeditiously as
possible," said Morris County Prosecutor Michael M.
Rubbinaccio, contacted after the press conference.

Mohamed El Filali, a religious director at ICPC, said
the problem with drunk drivers and of any intoxicants
-- all of which are forbidden in Islam -- was
societal. "Society is you and I. We are all
responsible for society."

"I actually think it's really ironic that they died
because of alcohol," said Hanan Jafar, 23, the younger
sister of Suade. "As a Muslim community, for the most
part, we're kind of sheltered from that. But this
opens our eyes to that."

Suade Jafar, 24, of Jefferson, said that no one in her
family hated Baum.

"We're only using him as a symbol," she said. "We have
no room for hate in our hearts. It is too late for
Eugene (Baum), obviously too late for my sister, my
cousin. But not too late for the others."

Baum could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Criminal penalty

Suade and her younger sister, Hanan, 23, leaned
against a stage in the praying room at the Islamic
Center of Passaic County. Their mother, Asia, stood
silently through the press conference, clenching a
framed picture of her daughter.

"We not only lost our sister, we lost our mother,"
Suade Jafar said.

Magida Jafar tearfully pleaded for a change in laws.

"We lost two beautiful girls, we're asking only for
justice," she said. "I want it to be safe for
everybody's kids. If you drink and drive, you should
go the rest of your life in jail."

Navid Iqbal can be reached at (973) 428-6627 or at


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