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Demonstrators charged with conspiracy, damaging National Gallery of Art exhibit

Police say the two suspects caused approximately $2,400 in damage and the exhibit was removed from public display for 10 days so that it could be repaired.

WASHINGTON — A North Carolina man and a New York woman have both been charged for their role in defacing Degas' "Little Dancer" exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Timothy Martin and Joanna Smith, both 53, were taken into custody Friday following an indictment charging them with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and injury to a National Gallery of Art exhibit.

Authorities say both Martin and Smith self-surrendered Friday morning, Martin in Raleigh, North Carolina and Smith in Washington, D.C.

According to the indictment, Martin and Smith smeared paint on the case and base of Edgar Degas’ "Little Dancer, Age Fourteen," a priceless work of art which has drawn visitors for years to the National Gallery of Art.

Following the demonstration, a group called Declare Emergency claimed credit.

Over the past year, in addition to this offense, Declare Emergency has blocked roadways around the Washington, D.C. area. 

The indictment further alleges that Martin and Smith agreed to enter the National Gallery of Art for the purpose of injuring the exhibit.

The "Little Dancer" was specifically targeted based on her fragility.

On April 27, authorities claim Martin and Smith entered the National Gallery of Art armed with plastic water bottles filled with paint.  

Martin and Smith handed their phones to other conspirators and waited until patrons cleared the area in front of the targeted sculpture.

Authorities say Martin and Smith proceeded to smear paint on the case and base of the exhibit, at times smacking the case with force.

Before the attack, members of the conspiracy had alerted the Washington Post, and two reporters from the Post recorded and photographed the offense. Additionally, other members of the conspiracy filmed and photographed the offense. 

Smith and Martin caused approximately $2,400 in damage and the exhibit was removed from public display for ten days so that it could be repaired.

 Authorities say each charge carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, specifically the FBI’s Art Crime Team, with assistance from National Gallery of Art Police, and U.S. Park Police. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron A. Tepfer of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 



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