A Kenmore teenager was sentenced today to weekends in jail for six months and must also spend five years on probation for deliberately running over a Kenmore West High School classmate last spring in a dispute over remarks posted on Twitter and Facebook about the school’s upcoming prom.
Liana Nieves, 18, of Crosby Avenue, will spend weekends in the Erie County Correctional Facility starting Friday for twice running over Madeline Silvia, 18, of the Town of Tonawanda, at about 10 p.m. April 26 on Chaplin Drive in the town.
Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita Jr. has characterized the assault as a “Twitter tantrum turned tragic.”
Silvia had gone to Chaplin Drive to visit a friend when Nieves pulled up in a sport utility vehicle and ran over her. The attack culminated a dispute about comments and taunts on social media concerning the prom, prosecutors said. Silvia suffered severe internal and pelvic injuries.
Silvia told the judge she went to talk to Nieves in front of her friend’s house, but Nieves ran over her and left her in the street.
“I wish Liana could live a day in my life and see how it has changed,” she told State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski.
She cried during her victim impact statement in court as she described a life of pain, nightmares and constant anxiety.
Kathleen Silvia said the encounter has drastically changed her daughter’s life and impacted the family.
“Nothing prepares you for seeing your daughter in a hospital bed” with serious injuries, she told Michalski.
“To hit and run over someone with an SUV and then drive off, leaving her there in the street, is unthinkable and unforgivable,” she said.
As a result, her daughter was unable to attend classes and had to leave the prom early, she said. She also has been unable to attend college.
Bill Silvia told the judge that his daughter remains in constant pain, has trouble eating and sleeping.
“She is a mere shell of what she once was,” he said.
He said she faces a long road to recovery, and he urged the judge to punish Nieves and not grant her youthful offender status.
Nieves apologized to Silvia and her family.
“I wish I could turn the clock back but I can’t,” she said.
She then read a prayer that she said she and her family recite every night for Silvia and her recovery.
She also apologized to her mother and father.
“I let them down,” she said amid tears.
Joel Daniels, her defense lawyer, addressed the texting dispute.
“When I grew up, you didn’t text,” he said.
But now a generation texts constantly, he said, and that apparently had something to do with what happened.
“With the texting and taunting, things escalated and went too far,” he told the judge.
He said he offered no excuses.
“Texting is foreign to me,” he said, “but it played a role in what happened here.”
He called the attack “an aberrant event in an otherwise unblemished life.”
He said Nieves comes from a loving family with parents who work hard “so she could make something of herself.”
He said she had been an honor student and captain of the track team at Kenmore West, graduated this year and is studying at Erie Community College to become a dental hygienist.
Nieves pleaded guilty in July to first-degree assault, a felony that carries a maximum prison term of 25 years, according to Sedita.
Although a state prison sentence was an option, Michalski said he didn’t think it was appropriate because she wouldn’t receive the treatment he said she needs to control her anger and impulsiveness.
“You will get that treatment while you are on probation,” he told Nieves in a courtroom packed with friends and family of both the defendant and the victim.
“Hopefully you will respond to the treatment and conditions of probation,” he said. “If you violate any of the conditions, prison would be a significant option.”
Given the injuries and trauma that Silvia suffered as a result of Nieves’ actions, the judge said Nieves should spend the first six month of her probation serving weekends in jail.
“That will give you time to sit there and think about what happened and what you can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he told her.
The judge granted Nieves youthful offender status, which means that if she completes probation and meets all the conditions, her felony conviction record will be sealed. She qualified for the status because she was 17 at the time of the attack, which occurred two days before her 18th birthday.
He ordered her to write a letter of apology to the Silvia family, undergo an evaluation for substance abuse and mental health and to follow any treatment that is recommended.
He imposed a curfew of 9:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. and ordered her to do 250 hours of community service and work at a job or attend school while she is on probation.