Toronto chair girl Marcella Zoia sentenced to two years probation
Chair girl isn't going to jail.
Marcella Zoia, the 20-year-old woman who rose to infamy last February for throwing a chair from the 43rd floor balcony of a downtown Toronto condo building, has been sentenced to two years of probation, 150 hours of community service, a DNA submission and a $2,000 fine for her crime of mischief endangering life.
Justice Mara Greene delivered the ruling after months of deliberation during a teleconference Tuesday afternoon with Zoia, her lawyer Greg Leslie, and Crown prosecutor Heather Keating.
"Given the serious potential for harm in this case, and the public nature of this event, there is a strong need to deter others," said Greene while reading her ruling. "It is my view that engaging in dangerous acts to gain notoriety is unacceptable."
"Having said that she was only 19 at the time of the offence," said Greene, who noted that Zoia had recently attended a one-day alcohol abuse program. "Rehabilitation can not be ignored."
Greene also noted that, while Zoia's actions were clearly deliberate ("she made a show for the camera,") the young woman has since shown "some insight" and taken responsibility for her actions.
Still, given the importance of the principles deterrence and denunciation in her sentence, and the fact that Zoia only managed not to kill someone out of "sheer luck," Greene found that some kind of "punitive sentence" was necessary.
The judge says she believes Zoia who said she got caught up in the moment and didn’t think about the consequences. Zoia said she thought she was throwing chair into the parking lot. She does not dispute that her actions could have hurt or killed someone.— Catherine McDonald (@cmcdonaldglobal) July 21, 2020
The case of Zoia, better known as "Chair Girl," had been captivating Toronto news and gossip hounds for more than a year now after video footage went viral of the young woman's chair toss near York and Harbour Streets on Feb. 9, 2019.
Between then and now, Zoia has managed to parlay her online notoriety 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.
After missing at least six scheduled court appearances, the one-time dental hygiene student pleaded guilty in November of 2019 to a charge of mischief endangering life.
The Crown had been asking for a sentence of four to six months in jail followed by two years probation, in addition to 240 hours of community service and alcohol abuse counselling.
Keating also suggested in a February hearing that Zoia be issued "a ban on posting to social media for some portion of the probation."
Zoia's lawyer had asked for a suspended sentence, arguing that jail time would excessive, given Zoia's young age and the fact that her "brain's not fully developed."
As Crown Attorney Heather Keating pointed out during Zoia's most-recent court hearing on February 7, mischief endangering life is one of the most serious charges that can be laid against someone in Canada, coming with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
"There should be no question that Miss Zoia is extraordinarily lucky that she didn't kill someone," said Keating.
"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."
Keating pointed out that the act not only posed "very serious jeopardy to innocent people" walking below the building, but to motorists and passengers on the highway beneath it.
"The Gardiner and the Lakeshore are likely the two heaviest trafficked roads in the city," she pointed out at the time, 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.
Keating also questioned Zoia's level of remorse, calling into question the content of her social media feed and the statements she made in a presentence report.
"I understand that posting the video to social media is not the crime here," said the Crown prosecutor during Zoia's last court hearing. "But I do want to note the obvious... that notoriety is currency as far as social media is concerned."
"Miss Zoia has been able to turn that social media response into a brand," she said of the reaction to Zoia's viral video and everything that's happened since.
"Zoia's sentence should generate as much attention as her crime," she said. "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 had argued that, if the end result isn't jail time, others in search of viral fame might do something similar to Zoia, or even worse — that it "might just sound worth it" to appear in a Drake video, even if only for a second.
Zoia, who was raised by her aunt in Brazil until the age of 14, had been diagnosed with ADHD as a child and exhibited behavioural problems in high school after moving to Canada to live with her mother, according to Greene.
Greene said that Zoia stopped taking ADHD medication because she couldn't drink alcohol while on it and that the young woman subsequently "floundered," being discharged from a medical esthetics program for not attending enough classes.
The judge stated that, despite her struggles, the young woman graduated high school with honours and still has a supportive family.
She, like Leslie, stressed that Zoia had suffered under the intense public scrutiny generated by her case.
"Marcella Zoia is an intelligent woman who will succeed in what she chooses to do in the future," said Greene of the now-infamous student-turned-social media star.
You can follow the rest of her life (much of which appears to include posting pictures of her butt to Instagram) here. I'm out.
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