Statue of Liberty climber pleads not guilty to trespassing
NEW YORK – A woman who climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty on a busy Fourth of July in what prosecutors called a “dangerous stunt” pleaded not guilty Thursday to misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct.
A federal judge released Therese Okoumou without bail after her court appearance.
Court papers also charged Okoumou with resisting arrest by refusing to leave her perch by the bottom of the statue’s robes, about 100 feet above ground. Police were forced to scale the statue to pull her down.
Okoumou allegedly “staged a dangerous stunt that alarmed the public and endangered her own life and the lives of the (New York Police Department) officers who responded to the scene,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement.
If convicted, Okoumou, 44, of Staten Island, would face up to six months behind bars on each count.
Her lawyer didn’t immediately comment.
The National Park Service decided to evacuate more than 4,000 visitors from Liberty Island on Wednesday “out of an abundance of caution,” said spokesman Jerry Willis. Average attendance for the Fourth of July is 20,000 to 25,000 people, he added.
A federal official said the woman told police she was protesting the separation of immigrant children from parents who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss it and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The park service was reviewing security videotape to try to determine how the woman made the climb, Willis said. It also was taking a closer look at the statue to see if there was any damage, though that’s unlikely, he said.
The copper-pounded skin is only the thickness of two pennies but “it’s strong,” he said.
“That statue has been out in the middle of New York Harbor for 130 years – with hurricanes and lightning and everything that nature has thrown at her,” he said. “She’s survived quite well.”