Patricia Krentcil has denied charges she took her 5-year-old to a tanning salon, telling reporters that her daughter got a sunburn from playing outside.
Krentcil, a New Jersey mother who herself has a deep tan that would put the Jersey Shore cast to shame, on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to child endangerment.
The 44-year-old said her daughter Anna often accompanies her to the tanning salon, but has never stepped inside a booth.
"It's like taking your daughter to go food shopping," Krentcil told NBC 4 New York in an interview at her Nutley, New Jersey home. "I tan, she doesn't tan. I'm in the booth, she's in the room. That's all there is to it."
Anna, who has fair skin and red hair, got a sunburn from playing outside on a warm day, Krentcil told NBC.
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The incident started when Anna said at school that she got a burn while tanning with mommy.
"The little girl went to school and reported she had these burns and that caused the school to contact authorities," Katherine Carter, spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, told ABC News.
New Jersey law prohibits anyone under the age of 14 from using a tanning booth. Older teens are allowed to tan but only with parental consent, New York TV station WABC reported.
New Jersey's child endangerment law punishes "any person with a legal duty to care for a child ... who causes the child harm." If convicted, Krentcil could potentially face up to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine.
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Krentcil, speaking to reporters ahead of a court appearance, admitted to excessive tanning but said she would never put her daughter at risk.
"I love to tan, as you can see. I’ve gone tanning my whole life," she said, according to The Star-Ledger.
"I’d never endanger her life by putting her under the ultraviolet light," Krentcil added.
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers last year found that indoor tanning may be physically addictive.
People who use tanning beds may be spurred by an addictive neurological reward-and-reinforcement trigger, similar to that seen in people addicted to drugs and alcohol, the study found.
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