TORONTO — A young woman who made headlines with a toss of a chair from a 45th-storey Toronto balcony was fined $2,000 on Tuesday, with the judge saying it was lucky no one was hurt and that Marcella Zoia had been shamed publicly.
In passing sentence, Ontario court Judge Mara Greene rejected prosecution calls to jail Zoia, who was 19 at the time of the incident in February 2019.
“I cannot find that she intended to hurt anyone when she threw that chair,” Greene said.
In addition to the fine, which Greene called significant, Zoia will have to put in 150 hours of community service and be on probation for two years.
Zoia pleaded guilty in November to mischief endangering life for throwing the chair, which crashed near a woman with a child in a stroller.
A video of the incident went viral after being posted to social media, drawing widespread condemnation and leading to Zoia’s being dubbed “Chair Girl.” Greene did not impose any restrictions on her use of social media.
Neither Zoia’s lawyer nor the prosecutor had any immediate comment.
The Crown had wanted a six-month jail sentence, which the judge said was inappropriate for the first-time offender. Greene, who said Zoia was clearly playing to the camera, said a suspended sentence as the defence had asked for was also inappropriate.
In passing sentence, conducted by conference call due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greene said the fact that no one was hurt played into her decision. She also said Zoia’s young age and potential for rehabilitation mitigated against a jail term.
Despite garnering attention on social media, the judge also noted many businesses did not want to be involved with Zoia and public shaming could be take into account in sentencing.
On the other hand, Greene said, Zoia had a high degree of moral blameworthiness because she had “made a show of throwing the chair” from the balcony.
Evidence at trial was that Zoia had been drinking the night before and was still intoxicated on the morning she threw the chair off the high-rise balcony. The video was taken with her phone, but Greene made no finding as to who had actually did the filming.
The video was deleted hours after being put on social media but it had already made the rounds and garnered international notoriety. Zoia turned herself in days after Toronto police asked for help in identifying her.
Zoia’s lawyer, Greg Leslie, said earlier that his client had dropped out of school, lost modelling contracts, and was suffering from anxiety. She also had a drinking problem, he said. He argued his client was immature and had succumbed to peer pressure.
The prosecution, however, maintained Zoia had minimized the gravity of the incident.
Zoia did apologize in court for the incident.
“I’m sorry. A lot of people could have been seriously hurt because of my actions,” she said previously. “I know this was a very immature and stupid mistake which I will take responsibility for.”
The judge ordered her to follow any counselling regimen her probation officer might order. She must also submit a DNA sample.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 21, 2020.
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press