The Ohio woman who was seriously injured by a garbage can dropped on her from a Niagara Falls parking ramp last summer said Wednesday that she remains frightened by the incident and would be reluctant to return to the Falls without a police escort.
Her assailant will receive a police escort – to state prison, where he will spend the next 2 1/3 to seven years.
That was the sentence Wednesday for Zachary T. Messing, 18, of Niagara Falls. City Judge Mark A. Violante denied Messing youthful offender status and sentenced him to the maximum sentence.
Messing and a juvenile dropped a garbage can on the tourist from the upper reaches of the Rainbow Boulevard parking ramp about 10:30 p.m. Aug. 9.
Because Messing was eligible for youthful offender status, Violante kept the courtroom closed for the half-hour proceeding. Niagara County Assistant District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said Violante didn't veto youthful offender status until the end of the session.
The first inkling outsiders had that Messing had been incarcerated came when his mother left the courtroom in tears.
The victim, a 51-year-old Lorain, Ohio, woman, said she suffered a "major concussion" and a fractured left collarbone when the plastic garbage can, which was about half full of papers, struck her in the head and shoulder.
The juvenile is believed to have been placed on probation in Niagara County Family Court, although officials aren't permitted to comment. Messing, who was 17 at the time of the crime, and his co-defendant, who was 15 at the time, were arrested in late November.
A factor in Violante's decision to impose the maximum sentence on Messing may have been a perceived lack of remorse for the incident.
"He apologized, as defendants usually do at sentencings," Hoffmann said. "The judge didn't believe it to be really heartfelt."
Defense attorney Michael Schmahl declined comment on the outcome.
The victim and her 14-year-old daughter attended the sentencing but remained frightened. They asked that their names not be published.
Although the woman said last summer she'd be willing to revisit Niagara Falls, she seemed to have changed her opinion.
"I don't know if I would come back without a police escort," the woman said outside the courtroom.
She and her daughter appeared scared by the boarded-up buildings and run-down ambiance of Main Street, where the Niagara Falls police and court building is located.
"We don't have streets like this in Ohio," the daughter said.
They asked a reporter to accompany them as they walked to their car in a nearby parking lot.
When the incident happened, the woman was knocked unconscious by the garbage can. Her daughter, who was walking a short distance ahead of her, remembered the incident well.
"When we were walking, we heard a big boom. We thought it was a gunshot," she said. "Then we turned around and saw her on the ground with her blood pooling on the sidewalk."
The victim expressed no opinion about the sentence.
"I left it up to the judge and God," she said. "Kids are young and things can happen, but you have to change your life. They didn't seem extremely remorseful."
The woman said she's still undergoing tests in the wake of the concussion.
"I had to go through terrible vertigo therapy," she said.
Her left arm remains numb from the wrist to the shoulder, but the woman said a burning sensation in the arm, which her doctors told her was the result of nerves regenerating themselves, finally has stopped.
The woman was unable to work for two months but finally returned to her office job despite her pain.
"You have to work to pay the bills," she said.
But she said for months, she had to use her right hand to lift her left hand into position to use a computer keyboard. Now, after therapy, she has a full range of motion in her left arm.
The woman said of Messing, "He's affected my life, my family and friends and his own life."