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Woman charged with D.C. vandalism ordered to halfway house

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The woman charged with defacing portions of the Washington National Cathedral with green paint will be monitored by both federal immigration and local officials after her release from the D.C. Jail.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick Sullivan on Friday ordered 58-year-old Jia M. Tian to wear a GPS monitoring bracelet and be released to a halfway house, where she would not be allowed to leave or have visitors, rather than staying in jail pending trial.

But because Ms. Tian is in the country illegally — she has a Chinese passport and was traveling on an expired visa when she was arrested — federal immigration officials will also keep an eye on her. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement planned to enroll Ms. Tian in a federal monitoring program while "she is in removal proceedings," spokesman Brandon A. Montgomery said.

An ICE detainer placed on Ms. Tian was lifted after the judge's ruling and she won't be deported from the country before her court case is resolved, he said.

It was too early to tell Friday to what extent ICE officials would monitor Ms. Tian, with whom they had not yet met, but options could range from in-person meetings to phone calls to GPS monitoring.

Prosecutors initially worried that with her release from jail that federal authorities could deport Ms. Tian before her case went to trial. Judge Sullivan opted to send Ms. Tian to a halfway house after he decided that confinement in jail would be too severe.

"Holding someone without bond is a very extreme remedy, which in many ways abridges a presumption of innocence," Judge Sullivan said.

Police arrested Ms. Tian on Monday at the Washington National Cathedral after officers responded to a report of green paint splattered inside one of the chapels. Prior to Monday, four other locations — including the Lincoln Memorial — were also defaced with green or white paint and authorities suspect Ms. Tian of that vandalism as well.

When police found Ms. Tian at the freshly vandalized cathedral, she had green paint on her clothes and hands and was carrying a soda can of green paint, according to court documents.

Two Metropolitan Police Department officers testified during Friday's preliminary hearing, and neither was aware of witnesses that saw or security footage that captured any of the vandalism.

"The government only has circumstantial evidence in this case," said defense attorney Mani Golzari, of the District's Public Defender Service.

Ms. Tian, who wore a blue prison smock in court Friday, sat beside beside a interpreter who translated the proceedings into Mandarin. During the hearing, Mr. Golzari also questioned whether it was appropriate to charge Ms. Tian with felony destruction of property — in which the damage caused must total more than $1,000 — since police did not provide detailed information about the cost of repairs to the cathedral.

One officer testified that he was told by cathedral staff that repairs and cleaning could total $18,000.

"If you throw paint around in the Washington cathedral, it's going to cost a few bucks," Judge Sullivan remarked, dismissing the defense attorney's argument.

Ms. Tian's next court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 29.

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