Judge Plans to Climb Statue of Liberty Before Sentencing Woman Who Climbed It

February 23, 2019 Updated: February 23, 2019

A federal judge plans to climb the Statue of Liberty before sentencing the woman who climbed the statue last year.

Therese Okoumou, 44, scaled the statue on July 4, 2018, claiming she was protesting the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The island that the statue sits on was shut down on the national holiday, forcing thousands of would-be tourists to make other plans.

Okoumou, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Congo, was found guilty on Dec. 17 of trespassing, disorderly conduct, and interfering with governmental administration. She faces up to 18 months in prison.

“The defendant staged a dangerous stunt that alarmed the public and endangered her own life and the lives of the NYPD officers who responded to the scene,” said Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, in a statement announcing the charges.

“While we must and do respect the rights of the people to peaceable protest, that right does not extend to breaking the law in ways that put others at risk.”

A protester is seen on the Statue of Liberty in New York, New York on July 4, 2018. (Danny Owens/Reuters)

In an order filed this week, Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein said that he plans to visit the statue “to better appreciate the risks or hazards created by defendant’s conduct,” according to NBC, which obtained the filing.

“Additionally, if it were deemed possible and safe, the Court would like a ladder to be made available so the Court (and counsel if requested) can view, while remaining on the ladder, the surface of the area where the defendant was situated on July 4, 2018,” the order read.

The National Park Service said that it would comply with the request at a future date, either before or after regular visiting hours.

The sentencing is currently scheduled for March.

Patricia Okoumou walks out of federal court from her arraignment, a day after authorities say she scaled the stone pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, in Manhattan, New York, on July 5, 2018. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Arrested Again

While awaiting sentencing for the Statue of Liberty stunt, Okoumou was arrested again on Feb. 20 for climbing a 4-story building in Austin, Texas.

Okoumou climbed to the top of the Southwest Key building before jumping from the second floor.

“We asked her to get in the ladder with us,” Austin officer Bino Cadenas told KVUE. “She refused, so she started climbing down. When she got to approximately 15 feet she jumped and she landed on her feet and then fell backwards.”

She was taken to a hospital and was then slated to be arrested and charged with trespassing.

Southwest Key Programs manages a shelter in Brownsville and other places that house illegal immigrant children. Okoumou was heard chanting, “Free the children. Let them go.”

During the protest, Okoumou stood on a narrow, 3-foot tall steel beam on top of the roof while doing acrobatics, Austin police told KXAN. Friends said she spent weeks planning the stunt.

She was on top of the building for approximately eight hours, prompting police to send 70 officers to the scene to control crowds and handle other duties. Police declined to use force to remove Okoumou because she could have slipped and fallen.

A spokesperson for Southwest Key said the company’s mission is to house the children and eventually reunite them with their families.

“It’s unfortunate that people still don’t understand the mission of Southwest Key Programs. For the last 30 years, Southwest Key Programs has been about taking care of children and their families in the juvenile justice system, unaccompanied minors as well as educating children across the country,” said Joella Brooks, Southwest COO, in a statement sent to news outlets.

“In our unaccompanied minor programs, our teachers, our clinicians our case managers, our social workers our staff, begin to work immediately once kids come into our programs to reunite them with their families and sponsors here in the U.S. Southwest Key will continue to drive towards its mission of opening doors to opportunity so that individuals can achieve their dreams.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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