Once, it was a game.
Ten months have elapsed since 16-year-old Zaria Estes and a group of accomplices patrolled the streets along the outskirts of Main Campus, looking to, as the prosectutor said, “knock a bitch down.”
At one point, Assistant District Attorney Paul Goldman also said, the group saw a couple girls on the street and asked if they wanted to join in on the attacks, which resulted in three assaults within a five-block radius on the evening of March 21, 2014.
One of them, the attack on then-sophomore Temple student Abbey Luffey and her boyfriend, resulted in a jail sentence Wednesday.
Estes was given a sentence of two-and-a-half to six years in state prison, along with four years of probation and other conditions by Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Erdos.
During the three-hour-long proceeding at the city’s Criminal Justice Center on 13th and Filbert streets, Estes was portrayed both as “Sweet Zaria,” and the cold-hearted criminal that used a brick as both an instrument of crime, and a tool of expression.
Estes pled guilty in October to aggravated assault, conspiracy and possession of an instrument of crime with intent to harm when she struck Luffey in the jaw with a brick. Luffey and her boyfriend were walking toward her boyfriend’s apartment when the attack on the corner of 17th and Norris streets occurred.
The incident left Luffey with a fractured jaw, teeth pushed up to the roof her mouth, a mild concussion and a resulting battle with constant anxiety.
“I feel like a burden,” Luffey, who now commutes from her parents’ home, said in her testimony. “I think one of the hardest things for me is that it affects people I love.”
Along with Luffey, her mother and 21-year-old boyfriend were among the nine character witnesses to testify for both sides during the hearing.
During her testimonial, Heather Luffey, Abbey’s mother, held up pictures showing her daughter’s damaged, bloodied mouth taken in the hospital shortly after the attack.
“[Abbey’s] personality changed,” Luffey said later. “She used to go out with her friends [all the time]. … She was fearless. I don’t have that same kid anymore. I have a different child.”
Zaria Estes’ mother and grandfather were among four people to testify on her behalf. Since Estes was released from the all-female Riverside Correctional Facility on bail, she had been participating in online schooling at home and abided by a 9 p.m. curfew without issue, her mother, Jackie Estes, said on the stand.
Her grandfather, Arthur Seel, testified that he always taught his family the self-control that Zaria Estes, during the session, said she lost when she struck Luffey.
Student Body President Ray Smeriglio, whom Goldman asked to testify at the hearing, said the incident helped drive the expansion of the Temple Police patrol zone in September, as questions about campus security increased soon after the attacks.
In a later phone interview with The Temple News, Smeriglio recalled fielding several questions about students’ safety on Main Campus when prospective students and their parents visited the university during an Experience Temple Day last spring.
“It was big news,” Smeriglio said of the attacks. “[I was asked] a lot of the typical questions about campus security, but there were a lot more of them. ‘How safe are you on campus? What’s the university doing?’ … I think since we extended the border, we’ve gotten a few questions, but I got a lot of positive feedback when [the patrol borders were expanded].”
Along with the confinement, Estes will be required to pay $400 in restitution, serve 50 hours of community service per year of supervision, complete her high school education and secure employment before her sentence is completed.
When Estes spoke to the court toward the end of the session apologizing to Luffey and her family for the incident, she said, among other admissions, that she is “disappointed” in her actions.
Both Goldman and Estes’ attorney, William McFadden Davis, could not be reached for comment.
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Andrew_Parent23