Therese Okoumou pleaded not guilty to trespassing, disorderly conduct, and interfering with governmental administration on July 5, the day after her arrest.
Okoumou, 44, scaled the statue’s pedestal and engaged in a three-hour standoff with police officers, triggering the evacuation of the landmark on the Independence Day. She was eventually apprehended.
“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 U.S. 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,” Berman said.
Officials noted that Okoumou disrupted one of America’s most popular landmarks on one of the busiest days of the year.
Detective Brian Glacken of the NYPD’s elite emergency services unit, who helped apprehend Okoumou, said that reaching her was perilous.
The rescue was “difficult due to the fact that there were not a lot of places to hold on to or hang on to,” he told the judge, reported the New York Post.
While ropes held him and a colleague, he believes they likely wouldn’t have held if they had fallen. “With my weight, it’d probably snap and slow me down for a second before hitting the ground,” he told the judge.
During the trial, Okoumou, an immigrant from Congo, claimed that images showing parents being separated from the children at the southern border gave her nightmares,” reported WABC. She said after the conviction that she couldn’t live with the sight of “children in cages.”
She said she didn’t regret her actions and claimed to stand on the right side of history.
Okoumou was wearing a blue shirt with a number of statements written on it, among them “No human is illegal on stolen land.”
‘Breaking Laws to Get to the Devil’
Judge Gabriel Gorenstein said that he couldn’t give Okoumou a pass for her crimes just because she claimed to be committing them as an act of protest.
He cited Sir Thomas More’s discussion in “A Man for All Seasons” about breaking laws to get to the devil, reported the New York Post. “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you—where would you hide?” the famous Catholic adviser to King Henry VIII said in the film.
“I think the defendant’s lawyers know that if I took them up on that invitation, none of us is protected by the law,” the judge said.
He challenged Okoumou’s defenders to imagine someone with the opposite political stance breaking the same laws and asking for leniency, reported Courthouse News.
“I do not doubt the sincerity of her beliefs,” Gornstein said.
Attorney Michael Avenatti, who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in her failed lawsuit against President Donald Trump, helped represent the criminal.
He said the verdict wasn’t surprising.
Okoumou faces up to 18 months in federal prison. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 5.
From NTD News