B.C.'s top court has halved a jail sentence for a Vancouver woman who repeatedly administered injections to Botox partygoers in flagrant defiance of a previous court order.
A panel of three Court of Appeal judges agreed the six-month sentence a lower court judge handed Maria Ezzati for contempt of court earlier this year was "demonstrably unfit."
In a decision that highlights past attempts to tame a rogue's gallery of faux physicians, the appeal court judges said half a year behind bars was a "marked and substantial departure from sentences imposed in this province on similarly-situated" scofflaws.
"I recognize that sentencing ranges are not 'straitjackets,' nor do they establish 'hard and fast rules,'" Justice Gregory Fitch wrote for the majority.
"At the same time, and giving due regard to the accepted principle that restraint should inform a sentence of imprisonment for civil contempt, I am satisfied that the sentence imposed on [Ezzati] is excessively punitive."
'She has been found to lie'
Ezzati, who claims she is qualified as a physician in Ireland, is not licensed to practice in B.C. and has been ordered not to refer to herself as a doctor — a fact many of her clients were unaware of.
She was sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court last February after B.C.'s College of Physicians and Surgeons proved she had injected dozens of people at Botox parties even after having been sanctioned by the court.
Justice Miriam Gropper fined Ezzati $5,000 the first time she was found in contempt.
If anything, the 36-year-old carried on as she had before, only with "greater intensity," according to the judge.
"Ms. Ezzati did not learn anything from the process of the first contempt," Gropper wrote.
"She continually breached court orders and lied about it ... she was defiant."
After considering evidence including one customer's complaint of a post-injection lump the size of a golf ball, Gropper sent Ezzati to prison for six months.
As part of her appeal, Ezzati claimed that the sentence was punitive and that the judge failed to consider her prospects of rehabilitation.
She claims she was abused as an adolescent and violently assaulted in Ireland in 2016. She was also the victim of "another very serious assault" in Canada in 2017.
Ezzati said those experiences haunted her during the brief period she was held in custody between the time Gropper first sent her to jail and her release pending the outcome of an appeal.
"She says she was placed in an observation cell on suicide watch for 72 hours. She was stripped of clothing and segregated. She says this experience triggered traumatic memories of being forcibly confined and violently assaulted in the past," Fitch wrote in the appeal court decision.
"[Ezzati] says she has recurring nightmares about the prospect of being incarcerated again."
But Fitch also noted that Ezzati failed to provide any documentation of her alleged treatment at the hands of Corrections officials. And she "has been found to be untrustworthy. She has been found to lie to the court in the past."
And then there was that rogue dentist
Ezzati had wanted the appeal court judges to impose a 12-month conditional sentence that would have allowed her to do her time at home — instead of at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge.
But Fitch said hard jail time was warranted. The question was how much?
The judges said the closest case for comparison was the saga of the Abbotsford woman who called herself "Dr. Lipjob."
Rajdeep Kaur Khakh used a forged licence to obtain supplies, signed a legal undertaking promising she wouldn't call herself "doctor" and then continued injecting at Botox parties in spite of a contempt-of-court ruling.
She was ultimately handed two 30-day jail sentences and placed on probation for two years.
Fitch also cited the cases of two unlicensed dentists who were pursued by B.C.'s College of Dental Surgeons for operating out of their homes.
David Wu earned widespread headlines in 2013 after Fraser Health warned hundreds of Wu's clients about the possibility of infection from the "filthy" condition of his bedroom-based clinic.
The rogue dentist fled the province to Ontario after he was found in contempt of court, sparking a cross-country manhunt.
He was later brought back to B.C. where he was given a three-month jail sentence in 2013 — the longest of its kind until Ezzati's original sentence.
Fitch said the kind of conduct in question is "relatively rare," which makes it tough to determine the right sentence. But even so, he said six months is a lot — especially considering that Ezzati's first penalty was $5,000.
In addition to reducing the sentence to three months, the judges also requested that the warden at the jail pay attention to Ezzati's claims about her alleged mistreatment the first time she was placed behind bars.