Chair girl prosecutor recommends banning Marcella Zoia from social media
The evidence has been presented. The arguments have been made. Two IKEA patio chairs have now been brought into a Toronto courthouse on two separate occasions —and yet, the young woman who rose to infamy as "chair girl" last year has to be sentenced for her crime.
That crime, of course, being throwing a chair from the 43rd floor balcony of a downtown Toronto condo building, endangering the lives of anyone who happened to be passing by on the sidewalk or the fast-moving Gardinery Expressway.
Marcella Zoia, 20, appeared in court at Toronto Old City Hall on Friday morning for a scheduled sentence hearing, during which her punishment for the charge of mischief endangering life was expected to be determined.
Much to dismay of a packed courtroom, Judge Mara Green announced after some three hours of court proceedings that she wouldn't be making her decision today.
The public must now wait until March 12 to learn whether or not chair girl will go to jail, as Crown prosecutors are reccomending.
this has become a joke; was she supposed to be sentenced today? wow— Hilda Andrade (@rustysheba) February 7, 2020
Zoia's lawyer, Greg Leslie, maintains that a jail sentence is inappropriate and is asking for a suspended sentence and probation for Zoia.
He spoke at length on Friday to his clients struggles with ADHD and history of alcohol abuse, urging the judge to consider rehabilitative measures that don't involve jail.
Crown Attorney Heather Keating, however, presented a strong series of arguments as to why Zoia should get jail time, underscoring the importance of denunciation and deterrence in the sentencing of this case.
"There should be no question that Miss Zoia is extraordinarily lucky that she didn't kill someone," said Keating in court today, noting that it was "at the height of a weekend morning, at the apex of 10 a.m. on a Saturday, in an area thick with condos when Miss Zoia was captured on camera throwing a chair from the 43th floor."
"The Gardiner and the Lakeshore are likely the two heaviest trafficked roads in the city," she pointed out, explaining that the chairs (yes, police found two ikea chairs at the scene) could have shattered a windshield or otherwise startled a driver, causing a multi-vehicle accident on a fast-moving road with fatal consequences.
Whether #chairgirl intended to gain fame or not, we now live in a society where people pull stupid, dangerous stunts to get famous and this is what happened. The judge needs to set a precedent through jail time & should restrict her social media access as part of her probation. https://t.co/32b0FwropC— Sarah K (@skempinska) February 7, 2020
Keating also raised concerns about Zoia's level of remorse, calling into question the content of her social media feeds and statements made by Zoia in the case's presentence report such as "it was just jokes."
"Zoia's sentence should generate as much attention as her crime," said the Crown prosecutor. "So that the public is aware that when you commit an offence as serious as this you go to jail. So that nobody thinks doing something like this is 'just jokes'."
Keating argued that, if the end result for Zoia isn't jail time, others in search of viral fame might do something similar, or even worse, than she did.
Any lesser sentence "might just sound worth it" for potential offenders to appear in a Drake video, she argued, even if only for a second.
In my mind, this is the strongest argument about why the Crown must prosecute her to the fullest extent of the law.— Kevin Vuong 🇨🇦⚓ (@KevinVuongTO) February 7, 2020
From #ChairGirl to #CoronavirusDoofus, we must ensure that people don’t put others in danger in the hopes of going viral and gaining #socialmedia fame. https://t.co/ULSlxyRIvW
Based on the importance of denouncing criminal behaviour, the severity of the charge against Zoia (mischief endangering life comes with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment in Canada) and other factors, the Crown suggested that an appropriate sentence would be 4-6 months in jail followed by two years of probation.
In addition to custody, Keating recommends that Zoia complete 240 hours of community service, receive counselling for alcohol abuse issues and that the judge potentially issue "a ban on posting to social media for some portion of the probation."
It is not known how such a ban would be enforced, exactly, but even a short ban could impact Zoia's ability to make money through her now-verified Instagram account.
"I understand that posting the video to social media is not the crime here," said Keating. "But I do want to note the obvious... that notoriety is currency as far as social media is concerned."
Keating spoke to the fact that Zoia rose from relative obscurity to "fame or infamy" by going viral for her chair toss in February of 2019.
Indeed, since the original video surfaced and made news, the 20-year-old Toronto woman has managed to parlay her online status into a career as an Instagram "model" with perks such as courtside Raptors seats, trips to Miami and a cameo in Drake's music video — all while facing serious charges of mischief endangering life, mischief endangering property under $5,000, and common nuisance.
"She is responsible for engineering that possibility and the outcome," said Keating of Zoia's relative success since becoming chair girl.
"Miss Zoia has been able to turn that social media response into a brand."
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