HAMILTON — A young Peabody woman who walked into Salem Superior Court yesterday expecting to have to serve at least a year behind bars for her role in a knife-point holdup of a Hamilton liquor store earlier this year instead walked out of court with an unusual sentence.
Ashley Mazac, 25, will spend six weekends in jail, starting Jan. 4.
It was a change of heart from a judge not known for light sentences, and it came after Mazac offered a tearful apology and begged for “just one chance” to keep the new life she’s built for herself after her arrest in January.
It’s also the first time in recent memory, said two longtime court staffers, that anyone in Essex County has received a weekend-only sentence.
Mazac was the driver in the Jan. 28 holdup at Harrigan’s Liquors on Bay Road (Route 1A), she admitted yesterday, and had also gone inside the shop to case it before her then-boyfriend, Michael Gallela, 31, of Stoneham, allegedly went inside armed with a knife.
Gallela, who is also charged with holdups in Marblehead, Saugus and Wakefield, part of what prosecutor Melissa Woodard called a “spree” last winter, made a brief appearance in court yesterday to ask for a delay in his case, as his lawyer tries to work out a plea agreement in both Essex and Middlesex counties. Mazac is not charged in the other holdups.
Mazac avoided looking at Gallela, a part of a life that she told Judge David Lowy she has left behind.
After Gallela was led out of the courtroom, to return Jan. 2 for another hearing in his case, Mazac pleaded guilty to charges of armed robbery and possession of cocaine.
Woodard described how on the afternoon of Jan. 28, a dark-haired woman briefly entered Harrigan’s to ask directions. Moments later, a man later identified as Gallela entered, brandishing a small knife, and demanded the contents of the register from a clerk, who was cut in the process.