By Jessica Bagley
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — Liana Nieves, the Town of Tonawanda teen who ran over a girl with an SUV, wept in court Thursday as she was ordered to spend weekends in the Erie County Correctional Facility for the next six months as part of her five year probationary sentence.
"This is one of the more troubling cases I've had to deal with," Supreme Court Judge John Michalski said before imposing the sentence. "Sometimes it's really easy, sometimes it's difficult, like this was ... but this wasn't a mishap, it wasn't an accident."
Nieves, 18, faced a maximum sentence of 25 years in state prison. She pleaded guilty in July to first-degree assault, admitting that on April 26 on Chaplin Drive, she ran over victim Madeleine Silvia after fighting with the girl on social media and text messaging.
At the time of the arrest, police said Nieves got in her car, pressed on the gas and hit Silvia, whose body tumbled away. Nieves then continued to coast, and drove over her body again. Silvia, who was in the courtroom Thursday, suffered serious injuries to her internal organs and pelvic bone.
"I never in my life thought something like this would have happened to me," Silvia said in court. "How could she have done this to me? I was in the worst pain of my life."
Silvia said she missed the last months of her senior year at Kenmore West due to the assault. She has been unable to go to work or school due to medical procedures and pain. The victim's parents were also in court Thursday, and addressed the pain their daughter has suffered.
"Nothing prepares you to see your child lying in a hospital bed, covered in scrapes from head to toe that won't stop bleeding," Kathleen Silvia, Madeline's mother, said in court, which was packed with family members of both teens. "To hit her and then leave her there is unthinkable and unforgivable."
Michalski said he chose a probationary sentence instead of state prison time so that Nieves could receive treatment for her anger issues. Nieves was also ordered to complete 250 hours of community service and abide by a curfew.
Michalski repeatedly reminded her that if she violates her probation, he could impose a state prison sentence.
He also granted Nieves youthful offender status, as she was 17 when the crime occurred. If Nieves completes her probation successfully, her conviction record will be sealed.
Before the sentencing, defense attorney Joel Daniels spoke to Nieves' immaculate background as a student and athlete. Nieves, who is a studying to be a dental hygienist at Erie Community College, graduated from Kenmore West as a honors student and was the captain of the track team. "She has never been a disciplinary problem in the school," he said. "How would a girl with such an exemplary background get herself involved in something like this?"
Daniels noted a letter, submitted to the court by a Kenmore West teacher, that described Nieves as "conscientious, fine young woman" who "demonstrated kindness" and had an "inviting personality."
Nieves apologized to Silvia and her family Thursday.
"I want everyone to know how sorry I am. I pray everyday for Maddie's recovery," she said. "I let everyone down."
Daniels also noted the role that text messaging had in the crime.
"This generation texts constantly," he said. "There was some taunting and things just got out of control. Everything went too far."