Instead, 23-year-old Camille Cacnio, who was photographed stealing pants from a looted clothing store, was handed a suspended sentence that will include two years of probation, a nighttime curfew and 150 hours of community service. She will also be left with a criminal record.
Cacnio became a focal point for public anger after photos of her appeared on a series of name-and-shame websites, and an Internet apology that she authored only seemed to add to the online abuse she endured.
Provincial court Judge Joseph Galati accepted Cacnio's argument that her behaviour on June 15, 2011, when the Vancouver Canucks' loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final devolved into a destructive riot, was out of character for someone who appears to have a bright future in front of her.
The judge pointed to Cacnio's academic achievements at the University of British Columbia, where she received numerous scholarships, and her experience volunteering in the community. The court also received numerous letters of support describing Cacnio as honest, hard working, responsible and compassionate.
"Until June 15, 2011, Ms. Cacnio led an exemplary life. ... She is a young woman who has contributed to society and is motivated and capable of greater contributions going forward," Galati said Friday as Cacnio sat at the front of a Vancouver courtroom.
"Ms. Cacnio, to some degree, has been unjustly persecuted by the would-be pundits of the social media."
Cacnio admitted to entering the smashed windows of a clothing store and taking two pairs of size 42 men's pants — far too large for her — and a tie. The entire incident lasted 20 seconds.
When photos of her appeared online, she turned herself into the police and posted an apology on the Internet. Her apology initially attempted to explain her actions, saying she was drunk and overtaken by the mob mentality, but she later replaced that with a much shorter posting that focused on taking responsibility for her actions.
Cacnio's sentence is by far the most lenient handed out as the rioters' cases make their way through the courts, and could serve as a precedent for others who are seen to have only limited involvement in the riot and aren't accused of vandalism or violence.
Only two other people have escaped jail. Robert Snelgrove, who was sentenced in July, and Sean Burkett, who was sentenced later on Friday, were each ordered to terms of house arrest.
Galati appeared to address inevitable complaints that Cacnio has gotten off lightly.
He pointed out she will still live with the stigma of a criminal conviction, and he noted she has already suffered greatly because of the attention her case has received in the news media and online.
Harassment at school forced her to put her studies on hold and the publicity has seen her fired from three separate jobs. She has also been prescribed mild anti-depressant medication.
"Ms. Cacnio has suffered unpleasant consequences as a result of her conduct, and the material filed (at her sentencing hearing) shows that the public is widely aware of that," said Galati.
"There is no need to teach Ms. Cacnio a severe lesson. To the extent that she was not deterred by her remorse, she has been deterred by the post-riot public reaction and by this prosecution."
The Crown asked for 15 to 30 days in jail, to be served on weekends. The defence asked for a conditional discharge that would have allowed her to avoid a criminal record.
Charges have so far been approved against more than 140 people alleged to have participated in the riot. Several dozen have pleaded guilty, but only a handful have been sentenced.
Police have predicted hundreds will eventually be charged.
The riot caused nearly $4 million in damage over several blocks of downtown Vancouver. Rioters smashed windows, set cars on fire and looted stores for hours until police in riot gear and on horseback were able to bring the crowd under control.
Also on HuffPost