TORONTO – A young woman who threw a chair off a downtown Toronto highrise balcony should spend months behind bars, receive counselling and be banned from social media, a prosecutor argued in court Friday.
But a lawyer representing Marcella Zoia argued no jail time was necessary, saying her decision to send a steel and wood chair crashing 45 stories down onto a busy street was prompted by alcohol and peer pressure.
Greg Leslie suggested Zoia, who pleaded guilty to mischief causing danger to life last year, serve a suspended sentence meaning no jail time – with probation.
That wasn’t enough for crown lawyer Heather Keating, who said Zoia’s sentence must send a cautionary message to the public.
“Society, through the courts, must show its abhorrence for a crime such as this,” Keating said at Zoia’s sentencing hearing.
“There should be no question that Miss Zoia is extraordinarily lucky she didn’t kill someone.”
Keating is seeking a four-to-six-month jail sentence and two years of probation as well as a social media ban, the terms of which she did not specify.
Court heard Zoia had been drinking the night before and was still intoxicated on the morning of Feb. 9, 2019 when she threw the chair off the balcony.
A video of the incident was taken with her phone and it appeared on her Snapchat account with the caption “Good morning,” but the defence maintained that a friend posted the video, not Zoia.
Keating scoffed at that suggestion, calling it “preposterous,” but said she did not want to turn the court proceedings into a “sideshow” by calling evidence to prove that fact.
“It doesn’t matter whether she posted the video to social media or not, but what she did know is that she was being filmed,” Keating said. “Why else film something unless it is to preserve what is being done and to share with your friends?”
The video was deleted hours later, but had already made the rounds on social media accounts and garnered international notoriety.
Zoia turned herself in to Toronto police days after the force issued a public plea to help identify her.
Leslie said his client, who was 19 at the time of the incident, has suffered the consequences of her youthful actions.
Zoia dropped out of school, lost modelling contracts and is suffering from anxiety, Leslie said, arguing she lives with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and long-standing struggles with alcohol consumption.
“Alcohol has become a major problem here,” he said.
Leslie said she began drinking in high school and would drink until she blacked out.
He argued group dynamics also played a role in the chair-throwing incident, alleging others were in the apartment with her at the time and also throwing items off the balcony.
“My client at the time was not the most mature young lady,” Leslie said. “There was a number of people in the apartment at the time. And there was pressure put on my client to throw a chair. Peer pressure.”
Keating, reading from a pre-sentence report written by a probation officer who met with Zoia, said the woman minimized the gravity of the incident by referring to it as “just jokes.”
But Zoia herself tried to refute that statement in court, offering an apology for the incident.
“I’m sorry. A lot of people could have been seriously hurt because of my actions,” Zoia, now 20, told Justice Mara Greene. “I know this was a very immature and stupid mistake which I will take responsibility for.”
Keating presented two crumpled steel and wood chairs as exhibits at the sentencing hearing, noting police found them both at the scene.
One of them was the chair Zoia threw, but the defence wouldn’t concede which one.
Neither the Crown nor the defence explained how the second chair landed on the sidewalk.
Greene is expected to hand down her sentencing decision on March 12.