Toronto 'chair girl' sentenced to two years probation and $2,000 fine
TORONTO -- A 20-year-old woman who tossed a chair off a downtown Toronto balcony over a busy highway last year has finally learned her legal fate.
Marcella Zoia, dubbed chair girl, was sentenced to two years of probation, a $2,000 fine and 150 hours of community service during a hearing held via teleconference on Tuesday afternoon.
“Zoia committed a very dangerous act,” Justice Mara Greene said in her decision. “She did so for her own pleasure and vanity in the moment. It was a selfish act that could have led to disastrous results. It is only by sheer luck that someone was not hurt or killed.”
Greene noted that her decision on sentencing should “reflect this reality.”
The judge went on to state that Zoia being a first-time offender was also a factor in her decision.
“In light of Zoia’s very young age, the collateral consequences outlined and her great process through rehabilitation, I find that a sentence should fall in the lower range,” she said. “While incarceration is extremely more punitive than a fine, it is my view that in this particular case, a meaningful fine, coupled with community service, is sufficiently punitive.”
Greene added that the amount of the fine is “significant” in regards to Zoia’s personal finances. Zoia has one year to pay the sum.
“This will drive home to Zoia and the public that there are significant consequences for her actions,” the judge said.
The decision was rendered after the case had been put over multiple times. Most recently, a decision was supposed to be handed down on March 30 after the matter was put over on March 12 due to the judge falling ill. But, the Ontario courts shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic placed the case on hold once again.
Earlier this year, Zoia told a courtroom she was “very sorry for her actions” after Greene listened to three hours of sentencing submissions from defence lawyer Gregory Leslie and Crown prosecutor Heather Keating.
“I take this as a lesson,” Zoia’s prepared statement said in part.
The video showed 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 in court on Feb. 7, ends before you see where exactly the chair lands.
Throughout the court proceedings, the Crown constantly questioned whether Zoia was truly remorseful for her actions while seeking a sentence that included between four and six months of jail time, as well as a social media ban.
Meanwhile, Zoia’s lawyer previously stated that his client “never intended to get any social media attention.” He was pushing for a suspended sentence with “various conditions,” including counselling for alcohol consumption while noting that his client began “drinking excessively” in high school, which he argued is relevant to the case due to the fact that Zoia had been drinking the night before the video was recorded.
Zoia was ‘posing and smiling for the camera’
On Tuesday, Greene noted Zoia’s actions caught on camera that day were not compulsive.
“It is clear from the video that Zoia’s actions were deliberate,” she said, adding that the then-19-year-old is seen “posing and smiling for the camera.”
Greene went on to state that while Zoia may have “put on a show for the camera” that day, her actions backfired, resulting in the public scrutinizing her for months.
“While Zoia’s followers on social media may have increased since the video was posted, the general public sentiment towards Zoia has generally been quite negative,” Green said. “This is not lost on Zoia.”
The judge said she would not impose a social media ban on Zoia as she failed to obtain evidence that she posted the chair-tossing video for “personal gain.”
“I note that Zoia uses social media to promote her modelling career and there is no evidence that Zoia uses social media inappropriately since her arrest for this offence. As a result, I do not think it would be appropriate to make this a term of her probation.”
In her decision, Green also addressed Zoia being discharged from the college program she was enrolled in, as well as the Drake music video she appeared in and was then edited out of.
“Zoia is painfully aware that many businesses do not want to be associated with her,” the judge said.
Greene added that Zoia can recover from this harsh criticism in years to come.
“Zoia is an intelligent young woman who when she discovers what she wants to do with her life has the tools to be successful. Zoia has a supportive family and good friends.”
Zoia will attend social media counselling
Zoia is scheduled to report to her probation officer on Tuesday by telephone following the sentencing hearing.
The terms of her probation include engaging in any counselling suggested by her probation officer, who will monitor her completion.
Greene said this counselling should include education surrounding the appropriate use of social media.
Her community service will have to be completed within the first 18 months of her probation.
Sentence was ‘abundantly fair,’ lawyer says
Following the hearing, Leslie told reporters he believes the sentencing decision made by Greene was “abundantly fair.”
“I think that her honour did an amazing job,” he said. “She dealt with all aspects of the case and it was an appropriate sentence.”
Leslie went on to state that his client is still dealing with several issues, including having a criminal record.
“Zoia has been ostracized by the media, by social media – it has caused tremendous stress upon her and anxiety. She has dealt with that and is dealing with that.”
Leslie was with Zoia when the decision was being read and said she was “very happy” and even “had a tear or two in her eye.”
“She was afraid of going in custody,” he said.
He also stated that Zoia understands that if there are any further problems, involving her social media or not, there is a strongly probability she will go to jail.
Here are live updates from the sentencing hearing: