Sentencing delayed for woman who threw chair from Toronto highrise balcony

TORONTO — A dispute over whether a young woman who threw a chair off a downtown Toronto highrise balcony posted the video to social media has delayed her criminal case, upsetting the presiding judge.

Marcella Zoia, 20, pleaded guilty to mischief causing danger to life in November and her sentencing hearing was to take place Tuesday.

But Zoia took issue with the Crown's pre-sentence report that said she posted the video to social media. The clip went viral last February, kicking off a police probe to identify the chair thrower and prompting Zoia to turn herself in several days later.

"She maintains she didn't post it at all to her Snapchat," Crown attorney Heather Keating said in court. "I want to prove that fact. I will call evidence. I'm not prepared to do that today."

The chair landed near a busy downtown highway. No one was injured in the incident, but court heard a woman with a child in a stroller were nearby when the chair crashed down from 45 storeys above.

The Crown is seeking six months in jail while the defence wants a suspended sentence that would mean Zoia would not spend any time behind bars.

The case must now go through what's known as a Gardiner hearing, where the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zoia posted the video to social media.

"I'm obviously not pleased we're in this position," Justice Mara Greene said. "This matter needs to move forward in a timely fashion."

The Crown told court she did not anticipate the social media posting to be an issue. But when Zoia read the pre-sentence report Tuesday morning, she disputed the fact she posted the video to Snapchat, her attorney, Greg Leslie, said.

Keating told court the posting is important because it would be an aggravating factor against Zoia in the judge's sentencing decision.

She said she will call one witness, while the defence said it will not call any evidence in the hearing. 

Just minutes after a police officer unwrapped a chair — alleged to be the one Zoia threw — in anticipation of the hearing, he wrapped it back up.

Outside court, Zoia, wearing sunglasses and a long, black coat, did not answer questions as she walked by a throng of reporters and into a waiting black SUV.

Leslie told reporters that Zoia — whose Instagram account has ballooned from about 5,000 to more than 40,000 followers over the last year — is struggling.

"My client is very anxious, she was under distress, she was distraught last night, she's having a difficult time," he said.

She works as a model, Leslie said, and was recently in a Drake music video that dropped last month. But she was edited out after a backlash on social media.

"She was in a Drake video for what, 1.7 seconds, without any speaking?" Leslie said. "She happened to be there on a dance floor. I think it's inappropriate, it was unnecessary for Drake to remove her."

Leslie also took issue with the chair being in the courtroom, calling it "theatrics."

The officer then came out of court with the chair and the media throng followed it to another waiting car.

The case is scheduled to continue on Feb. 7.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 14, 2020.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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