Woman charged in cathedral vandalism sent to halfway house

WASHINGTON – The woman accused of defacing the Washington National Cathedral with green paint has been ordered to a halfway house until her next court appearance.

Jiamei Tian, 58, will wear an ankle monitor and will not be permitted visitors, according to the order from Judge Frederick Sullivan at a preliminary hearing in D.C. Superior Court on Friday.

Prosecutors had called for Tian, who was arrested Monday and charged with defacing and destroying private property, to be held without bail, calling her a flight risk. Authorities say she has a Chinese passport and her visa has expired, and prosecutor Kevin Chambers said Tian was dishonest about where she lived when interviewed by police.

Sullivan called that recommendation “too extreme” for the circumstances of what he called “a bizarre happening,” which he likened to a graffiti attack. Chambers responded that the landmark status of the cathedral makes it a special case.

A detective and an officer of the Metropolitan Police Department testified as to what they saw after an organ and decorative woodwork were splattered with green paint on Monday. Tian smiled serenely and followed the proceedings with the help of a Mandarin interpreter.

Authorities believe she’s linked to three other cases of green-paint vandalism in the District – at the Lincoln Memorial, on a statue of Joseph Henry outside the Smithsonian Headquarters and a statue of Martin Luther on Thomas Circle.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a detainer on Tian, and the judge and prosecutors discussed the possibility that ICE would take Tian before criminal proceedings have concluded.

There hasn’t been a formal estimate of the cost of damages, which could determine whether the vandalism is a federal crime. Court place the damage at $18,000, though an attorney for Tian disputes that number.

Tian is due back in court Aug. 29. The charge of destroying private property carries a 10-year maximum sentence.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

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