'Chair girl' apologizes in court as judge announces sentencing date
TORONTO -- A 20-year-old woman who threw a chair off a downtown Toronto balcony over a busy highway last year told a courtroom she was “very sorry for her actions” as a judge announced she will learn her fate next month.
On Friday morning, Marcella Zoia walked into a Toronto courtroom, dressed in all black, to a paused video displayed on a large screen.
The video, which was captured in February 2019, shows Zoia launch a chair off a balcony on the 45th floor of a condo building over the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard. No injuries were reported in the incident and the video, which was played frame by frame to the courtroom, ends before you see where exactly the chair lands.
After the video was shared widely online, officers with the Toronto Police Service urged the woman seen in the social media post to come forward and identify herself.
Zoia then turned herself in to officials a few days later. In November 2019, she pleaded guilty to mischief endangering life.
The screen inside the courtroom shows that the video was posted to a Snapchat account called “Marcella” with a timestamp of “three hours ago.”
On Tuesday, Zoia admitted that the chair-tossing video was filmed on her personal cell phone and posted to her personal Snapchat account, but maintained that she was not the one who pressed post and she was unaware that it was up for several hours.
The Crown, Heather Keating, addressed Zoia’s explanation in her sentencing submission on Friday, calling it “nonsense and not believable.”
Crown is seeking jail time and social media ban
The Crown, who questioned whether Zoia is truly remorseful for her actions, is seeking a sentence that includes between four and six months in jail and two years of probation for the 20-year-old woman.
Keating is also asking for Zoia to attend counselling for alcohol consumption and participate in 240 hours of community service. As well, the Crown is asking the judge to consider a ban on Zoia posting to social media during her probation.
Zoia has turned the social media response to her action into a brand and employment, the Crown argued on Friday.
At this point in her submission, Keating referenced Zoia making a quick cameo in Drake’s music video in December 2019, which generated major media coverage. The Toronto rapper had her removed entirely the next day, saying “certain people we don’t condone.”
The Crown then referenced the pre-sentence report where Zoia stated that she “hates” the social media attention she has garnered from this incident, saying that is not true because she continues to use it.
The pre-sentence report, the Crown said, included the 20-year-old telling her probation officer this matter was “the dumbest thing she’s ever done.”
Keating said Zoia’s sentence “should generate as much attention as her crime,” referring to her increased social media presence since the video went viral and made headlines both nationally and internationally.
“The public will be aware that when you do something like this, you will go to jail,” the Crown said.
While the Crown was reading her submission, the metal and wooden chair, which was submitted into evidence by prosecutors, was placed on top of a table, just metres away from where Zoia was seated beside her lawyer.
The chair was in two parts and each part has a black metal frame with seven light, wooden panels. As well, two white cushions were placed on top of one of the parts of the chair.
Referring to the chair and photographs shown inside the courtroom, the Crown said Zoia was “extremely lucky” she did not seriously hurt anyone.
The photos, according to Keating, show the area where the incident took place, including the “very condensed and crowded” sidewalk that is significantly close to the busy roadways.
Zoia’s lawyer calls for suspended sentence
Following the Crown’s submission, Zoia’s lawyer, Gregory Leslie, stated that this matter has significantly affected his client, who “never intended to get any social media attention.”
Leslie is seeking a suspended sentence for the 20-year-old with “various conditions,” including counselling for alcohol consumption.
On Friday, Leslie said “drinking excessively” became an issue for his client back in high school, which he argued is relevant to the case due to the fact that she had been drinking the night before the video was recorded.
Leslie said Zoia was diagnosed with ADHD at “a very young age” and was subsequently put on medication, but after that was not appearing to work and began “self-medicating” with alcohol, which became a “major problem” in her high school years.
Zoia’s lawyer went on to tell the judge that his client was “at the time, not the most mature young lady” and “there was pressure put on her to throw the chair.”
“We know that there were more people at that apartment,” he said. “This is a young lady, intoxicated, there was peer-pressure placed on her and it was a spontaneous reaction.”
Leslie said since being charged, his client has participated in “three or four” alcohol counselling meetings.
‘Not going to benefit in any way from going to jail’
Furthermore, in his submission, Leslie said this matter has affected his client’s life “in a negative way” and suggested her sentence include dealing with the “underlying mental health issues” she faces.
He said Zoia has had some friends “shy away from her” since the incident, but some have continued to support her.
Back in March 2019, Leslie told reporters that his client had been expelled from the dental hygiene program she was enrolled in. On Friday, he mentioned Zoia dropping out of a medical esthetician program at Bryan College in Toronto due to “emotional barriers.”
Leslie said, his client continues to work as a model. Also, she still, if asked, works at bars and nightclubs doing bottle service – noting that sometimes she turns down these jobs as she does not want to be in those types of atmospheres while refraining from alcohol consumption.
“She is doing everything she can to be a positive influence,” he said.
Leslie said Zoia “is not going to benefit is any way from going to jail,” adding that “there is nothing to suggest that she will commit any other offences.”
Zoia apologizes to the judge
After both submissions were made, the judge offered Zoia the opportunity to speak.
The 20-year-old stood up and read a prepared statement inside the courtroom.
In part, she said, “I am very sorry for my actions… I take this as a lesson.”
Zoia has been out on bail since February 2019, with conditions she live with her mother, refrain from contact with the four other individuals named in the incident and stay away from the Maple Leaf Square Condos, where the incident took place.
The judge is expected to render her decision at 10 a.m. on March 12 at Old City Hall.