Piscataway, N.J. Friends described the man charged with breaching security at Newark Liberty International Airport as a romantic who just wanted to see his girlfriend off properly.
Speaking outside Haisong Jiang’s home near the Rutgers University campus in Piscataway on Saturday, Ning Huang said he’s known the 28-year-old for several years. Huang said Jiang is “a very good person” who didn’t realize the ramifications of his actions on Sunday.
Andy Riu, who also described himself as a friend of Jiang, called him “very romantic.” Both men said Jiang had been dating the woman for about a year and that he had flown to California several times to visit her.
The woman, a recent Rutgers graduate who lives in Los Angeles, was in New Jersey for a holiday visit.
“He loves his girlfriend,” Huang said of Jiang, who has not commented publicly since he was arrested Friday night at his home. “He just went to say goodbye to her.”
Two cars were parked in the driveway of Jiang’s home on Saturday, and at least one person was seen inside the residence. But reporters’ repeated knocks on the home’s front door were not answered.
Jiang, who is Chinese, is a doctoral student in a joint molecular biosciences program at Rutgers and has been in the U.S. since 2004. He faces a defiant trespassing charge and a fine of up to $500, and he’s scheduled to be arraigned this coming week, but a hearing date has not yet been scheduled.
The Newark city prosecutor’s office said late Saturday afternoon that they had not been notified whether Jiang had retained an attorney.
It was not known Saturday if the misdemeanor charge would affect Jiang’s visa status. Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency is aware of the case, but she would not comment specifically on it.
Nantel said misdemeanor convictions generally do not affect someone’s visa status, though more serious felony convictions often can result in a visa being revoked.
Authorities say that when Jiang breached security Jan. 3, it triggered the shutdown of a busy terminal that led to snarled flights worldwide.
New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who was briefed on the arrest, said authorities found Jiang with “sheer, hard police work” but expressed anger that the man faces a charge he described as a “slap on the wrist.”