WASHINGTON — A woman charged with defacing the Washington National Cathedral and suspected of committing similar vandalism at sites including the Lincoln Memorial was ordered released to a halfway house on Friday.
A judge also ordered that Jiamei Tian wear an ankle monitoring bracelet and barred her from leaving the halfway house or having visitors. The 58-year-old is accused of splashing green paint in two different chapels of the cathedral on Monday. Court documents have put the damage at $18,000, though an attorney for Tian disputed that number during the hearing, which lasted more than an hour.
Police and prosecutors also believe Tian is connected to recent vandalism at the Lincoln Memorial, a church and two different statues in the city. Green or white paint was found at each location. A detective testified that he was told that a footprint at the Lincoln Memorial matched the tread on the shoes Tian was wearing when she was arrested. Tian was holding a soda can with green paint inside when she was approached by a police officer at the cathedral.
Prosecutor Kevin Chambers argued Tian should remain in jail because there was no other way to guarantee she’d return to court. He said Tian, who has a Chinese passport and was traveling in Washington on an expired visa, has no ties to the community. And he said she was dishonest about where she lived when officers interviewed her.
Judge Frederick Sullivan, however, said holding someone in jail is “a very extreme remedy.” He said the courthouse frequently sees defendants accused of painting graffiti and that they are released.
“Everything has to be put in perspective,” he said.
Chambers, however, said that most defendants aren’t charged with defacing landmark buildings like the cathedral.
Tian, who sat quietly and listened to Monday’s hearing with the assistance of an interpreter, has been told to return to D.C. Superior Court on Aug. 29 for a further hearing in the case. The crime she’s been charged with, destroying private property, carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
Tian also faces potential removal by immigration authorities. A telephone call to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Washington was not immediately returned Friday afternoon.
National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson said Friday that officials have removed nearly all traces of the green paint from the Lincoln Memorial. Two spots Johnson called “stubborn areas” still show signs of staining, however, and will be cleaned again Monday.
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