Criminal sentencings are usually a somber affair, accompanied by frowns and scowls from defendants and frustrated tears from family members and friends.
Today was a little different.
A young woman named Jessica Bonacci was thrilled — thrilled! — to receive five years’ probation for third-degree robbery, a felony that’s punishable by up to 7 years in state prison. The 22-year-old from Peekskill thanked the judge, pumped her handcuffed fists behind her and beamed a smile back to her mother sitting in the front row, who threw her arms around another woman in sheer joy.
“I know you have the love and support of your family,” state Supreme Court Justice Richard A. Molea said. “Hopefully, this has been a lesson for you.”
Here’s the back story: Bonacci was accused of setting up robbery victims, tag-team style, with an accomplice, according to the Westchester County District Attorney’s office. One would distract the victim, while the other snuck up and attacked the victim, stealing whatever was available — money, cell phones, and so on.
Bonacci was arrested Feb. 27, 2008 when, prosecutors allege, she and the accomplice pulled this scheme at an Ossining shopping center. She used the victim’s company van as a getaway car, but she didn’t get far.
A Westchester grand jury handed Bonacci a 12-count indictment that included felony charges of robbery, grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and misdemeanor assault. She got a break from prosecutors and was allowed to plead guilty to the one robbery count if she served probation for five years and paid back the $2,500 she stole, plus court fees.
Bonacci’s legal problems are not over yet. After being released on her own recognizance for the February 2008 robbery, she was arrested for a March 5, 2009 robbery in Peekskill, as was her alleged accomplice, Tony Perez. Both were charged with first-degree robbery for allegedly stealing a wallet out of a man’s pocket and have been in the Westchester County Jail since that arrest.
Bonacci is to appear before Westchester County Judge Susan Capeci on the second felony robbery charge next week. She has yet to take a plea in the second robbery case, but the DA’s office says she’s not expected to serve any prison time.
No wonder she was so happy.