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Woman sentenced in viral Moulton Falls bridge-shoving incident

Tay’lor Smith sentenced to two days in jail, 38 days on work crew

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter, and
, Columbian breaking news reporter
Published: March 27, 2019, 3:05pm
6 Photos
Tay'Lor Smith fights back tears as she is escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs after being sentenced at the Clark County Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon, March 27, 2019. Smith pleaded guilty for pushing Jordan Holgerson of Kalama off the bridge at Moulton Falls Regional Park in August. She was sentenced to two days in jail and 38 days on a county work crew. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian)
Tay'Lor Smith fights back tears as she is escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs after being sentenced at the Clark County Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon, March 27, 2019. Smith pleaded guilty for pushing Jordan Holgerson of Kalama off the bridge at Moulton Falls Regional Park in August. She was sentenced to two days in jail and 38 days on a county work crew. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Tay’Lor Smith, who pleaded guilty last week to a charge of reckless endangerment stemming from pushing Jordan Holgerson of Kalama off the bridge at Moulton Falls Regional Park in August, was sentenced Wednesday afternoon to two days in jail and 38 days on a county work crew.

Smith’s charge is a gross misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office recommended 60 days of home confinement, 30 days of service with a work crew and 30 days of community service.

“We do believe it would be more productive for the defendant” to perform community service rather than jail time, Clark County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Laurel Smith said.

Nathan Pliska, Smith’s defense attorney, asked for a 30-day, deferred work crew sentence. He said the viral video, media coverage and desire of the community to vilify his client made the sentencing recommendation more severe.

“This is on the internet forever,” Pliska said. “She looks, so to speak, like a monster shoving someone from a bridge. I don’t think she’s that person.”

Clark County District Court Judge Darvin Zimmerman, however, questioned why Smith was not charged with assault by prosecutors.

Smith, 19, looks like the “most unlikely person to push someone off a bridge,” Zimmerman said. “On the other hand, this is the most reckless behavior you could conceive.”

Zimmerman ruled that the jail sentence be served effective immediately despite Pliska’s request to have it deferred. A tearful Smith was led away in handcuffs following the sentence.

A 10-second video that captured the Aug. 7 incident and circulated on Facebook shows Holgerson, then 16, standing on the bridge, outside of the railing, apparently hesitating to jump. A woman pushes her, sending her nearly 52 feet down to the water below.

On the day of the incident, Holgerson, Smith and several friends drove to Moulton Falls. Holgerson watched a friend jump from the bridge and decided she wanted to try it, according to a probable cause affidavit.

“Once at the top, Jordan hesitated and began to have second thoughts about jumping,” the affidavit says.

Several days later, Smith was identified by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office as the person pushing Holgerson in the video. In the aftermath, Smith appeared on “Good Morning America.” In the interview, she said she didn’t consider the repercussions of the push beforehand.

Holgerson said she has suffered significant physical injuries, including five broken ribs and two punctured lungs, as well as emotional strife, including post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia.

As Holgerson began to offer a victim’s impact statement Wednesday, Zimmerman advised that she take her time.

“I didn’t ask for this, but last summer, my said friend changed my life for the worst,” Holgerson said.

10 Photos
Defendant Tay'Lor Smith, left, fights back tears as her lawyer speaks during her sentencing at the Clark County Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon, March 27, 2019. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian)
Gallery: Tay’Lor Smith Sentencing Photo Gallery

Then, she paused for a few moments before a victim’s advocate approached and read the rest of the statement for her.

After hitting the water, Holgerson couldn’t breathe and saw her skin begin to change color, the statement read.

“This nightmare started for me when I was falling through the air,” the statement read. “When I was pulled from the river, I thought, ‘I’m going to die.'”

In her statement, Smith said she wanted to “sincerely apologize” to Holgerson and her family. She also added that the media coverage and internet death threats have been difficult.

“I’ve come to the realization that ‘kids being kids’ goes a lot farther than the statement itself,” Smith said.

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Holgerson and members of her family told Zimmerman that Smith has not shown remorse and didn’t run down to check on her condition after the push.

“I was really looking forward to a sincere apology, but all I got from the family were threats and lies,” Holgerson’s statement read.

Pliska challenged the idea that she was not remorseful. Smith sent apologetic text messages and tried to visit Holgerson in the hospital before being asked to leave, he said.

“They’re still, basically, children. Taylor made, just, a very bad decision at a very bad time,” Pliska said, adding it’s hard for Smith to watch the video. “She says she can’t believe it’s her doing something like that.”

Genelle Holgerson previously said her daughter is going to physical therapy for a shoulder injury and has developed anxiety. She said Wednesday that she wanted Smith to serve three days in jail.

“Taylor didn’t just give Jordan a little push,” Genelle Holgerson said. “I ask that she stay in jail as long as my daughter was in that hospital bed.”

At the end of the hearing, the families of Smith and Holgerson took verbal jabs at each other. Genelle Holgerson said a family member of Smith placed her hands on her daughter after the hearing and threatened her.

Both Smith and Holgerson live in Kalama. As part of the sentencing, Smith is ordered to not contact Holgerson for two years. Restitution in the case will be determined at a later date.

After the hearing, an exasperated Holgerson and her mother said they were happy with the judge’s sentence.

“I’m happy it’s over,” Jordan Holgerson said.

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