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Woman charged in vandalism at National Cathedral

Posted at 10:58 PM, Jul 30, 2013

From Athena Jones, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A woman arrested in connection with the splattering of paint in two locations inside the National Cathedral in Washington was ordered held without bond Tuesday.

Jia Mei Tian, 58, has been charged with felony destruction of property. When officers arrested her on Monday, she had green paint on her clothes and shoes, and paint cans were found in three bags she had with her, according to a police report obtained by CNN.

If found guilty, she could face up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Tian will be kept in custody at least until a second hearing, which is scheduled for Friday morning.

That hearing will determine whether there is probable cause to continue to hold her. If she is held, she would be entitled to another hearing within 100 days.

During her appearance in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Tuesday, Tian wore a white jumpsuit and appeared disheveled with messy hair. She was calm throughout. Early on, while waiting her turn near the front of the courtroom, Tian appeared to be smiling.

A Mandarin interpreter was brought in to assist her during the proceedings.

According to court documents, Tian had a visa allowing her to be in the United States that expired on Saturday. She traveled on a Chinese passport.

Prosecutors argued she was a serious flight risk with no fixed address.

“She’s been in the community for only a few days, and the government would argue that there is strong evidence that the defendant’s presence in the district is for no other purpose than to deface national monuments and landmarks,” said prosecutor Kevin Chambers.

After Tian’s arrest, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement lodged an immigration detainer against her, meaning that ICE wants to be notified before local law enforcement releases her.

In other incidents, green paint was used recently to deface the Lincoln Memorial, a statue of Martin Luther in Thomas Circle and a statue in front of a Smithsonian building, the court documents said.

Tian was not immediately tied to those events, and her lawyer, Nancy Glass, argued there is no evidence directly connecting Tian to them.

Her clothes were sent to a forensics team to determine whether the paint on them matches the paint at the other locations.

A fifth landmark in Washington — Luther Place Memorial Church — was also defaced. The court documents allege that a woman matching Tian’s description was seen at the church Sunday. White paint mixed with urine and feces was splattered on the church’s organ.

At the cathedral, in Washington’s northwest quadrant, paint was discovered on an organ console and casework inside the historic Bethlehem Chapel, in the building’s lower level.

A spokesman said the paint was wet when it was discovered. Paint was also found in the Children’s Chapel, in the cathedral’s nave.

The cathedral is a popular tourist destination.

Five miles south, on the National Mall, green paint was discovered on a statue outside the Smithsonian Institution Building, known widely as the Castle.

Linda St. Thomas, the Smithsonian’s chief spokeswoman, said the statue is of Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the federally administered group of museums.

CNN’s Greg Seaby, Carol Cratty, Dana Ford, Erin McPike and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.