AP

Opera singer accepts insanity plea in Mar-a-Lago breach

Jan 18, 2022, 9:31 AM | Updated: 9:53 am

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The Connecticut opera singer who drew fire from law enforcement when she sped through a checkpoint outside then-President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida two years ago was found not guilty by reason of insanity Tuesday.

Florida prosecutors and Circuit Judge Scott Suskauer accepted Hannah Roemhild’s plea during a three-minute hearing with the 32-year-old singer appearing by Zoom from her home state.

Federal prosecutors accepted a similar plea deal in August. Her attorneys have said she has a history of mental illness and had stopped taking her medication before her wild ride through Palm Beach on Jan. 31, 2020.

She had been charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, fleeing arrest and resisting an officer without violence.

Roemhild only spoke to acknowledge her presence during the West Palm Beach hearing. Under terms of the agreement, mirroring those in the federal case, she must undergo psychiatric treatment and counseling and take medications, with monthly blood tests to confirm compliance.

Prosecutors agreed Roemhild “does not create a substantial risk of injury to herself or others.”

Under Florida law, a person can only be found not guilty by reason of insanity if, because of mental illness, they did not know what they were doing or its consequences, or did not know it was wrong.

Roemhild came to the attention of law enforcement after she pulled a rented Jeep into the parking lot of The Breakers, a luxury hotel about 3 miles (5 kilometers) north of Mar-a-Lago on Ocean Boulevard, according to court records. She climbed on top of the Jeep and began waving at guests and making obscene gestures. Hotel employees summoned Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Tony Kingery, who was working a security detail at the hotel.

When he drove up in his patrol car with his emergency lights turned on, Roemhild was sitting in her Jeep and tried to drive away over his commands to stop. Kingery broke the driver’s window with his baton, but she sped away onto Ocean and headed south, driving dangerously through Palm Beach’s downtown shopping district with the sergeant unable to keep up with her, court documents said.

She soon reached the checkpoints that had been setup around Mar-a-Lago in anticipation of Trump’s arrival later that day. She zigzagged around barriers and narrowly missed hitting two Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies and a Secret Service agent as she sped through the restricted area. They opened fired, breaking out her back window, but Roemhild was unhurt.

She then drove to nearby Palm Beach International Airport to pick up her mother, who had just arrived. The two then drove to a nearby motel, where Roemhild was arrested as she tried to run from officers into her room. She told them she was trying to escape people who were trying to kill her.

Mar-a-Lago was the scene of several intrusions during Trump’s four-year term.

In August 2020, three teenagers fleeing police while carrying a semiautomatic gun in a backpack jumped a wall at Mar-a-Lago but police did not believe they knew where they were.

In March 2019, Chinese national Yujing Zhang gained access to Mar-a-Lago while carrying a laptop, phones and other electronic gear. That led to initial speculation that the 33-year-old businesswoman from Shanghai might be a spy, but she was never charged with espionage. Text messages she exchanged with a trip organizer indicated she was a fan of the president and wanted to meet him or his family to discuss possible deals. She was found guilty of trespassing and deported.

In December 2019, the club’s security officers confronted another Chinese national, Jing Lu, 56, for trespassing and told her to leave, but she returned to take photos. Lu was charged with loitering and resisting an officer without violence after taking photos by entering a service entrance. She was later acquitted of trespassing but guilty of resisting arrest.

On Thanksgiving weekend 2018, a University of Wisconsin student visiting the area with his parents walked into Mar-a-Lago by mingling with a group that was entering. He was arrested and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.

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Opera singer accepts insanity plea in Mar-a-Lago breach