City Won't Plead Down WTC BASE Jumpers
MANHATTAN (CN) - Despite an earlier inclination toward leniency, a prosecutor today refused to reduce felony charges against the three men who jumped off the new World Trade Center.
"It's pretty close to a final decision," Assistant District Attorney James Zaleta told the judge during a half-hour hearing Tuesday morning.
The remark means that James Brady, Andrew Rossig and Marko Markovich will not skate on the burglary charge they face on top of multiple counts of reckless endangerment and unauthorized jumping for their Sept. 30th leap.
Kyle Hartwell, who allegedly spotted for trio on the ground, might be able to negotiate a deal that will leave him with a misdemeanor, the prosecutor added.
Lead defense counsel Timothy Parlatore accused the government of reneging on its earlier position. He told reporters that the prosecutor previously said, on the record, that his office would "give you something that you'll be happy with."
Before that time, Parlatore said he made it clear that "the only things they won't consent to are jail and a felony."
Parlatore, who slammed the top charge as "political," said that prosecutors also overreached in an investigation that has led to the seizure and discovery of equipment, journals, diaries, an X-Box video game console and an iPhone purchased after the jump.
Apparently surprised by the scope of evidence gathering, Manhattan Criminal Judge Charles Solomon asked, "There's video of this, isn't there?"
The YouTube video of the stunt has been viewed more than 3 million times.
Parliatore said that government demonstrated its ignorance of BASE jumping by seizing parachutes from the New Jersey-based Skydive Sussex where Markovich worked as an instructor.
"There's a significant difference between a skydiving piece of gear and BASE jumping piece of gear," he told the court.
BASE jumping, an acronym for parachuting off a building, antenna, span or earth, uses only one parachute instead of two because it involves shorter altitudes.
Skydive Sussex has been "losing thousands and thousands of dollars" because of the mix-up, Parlatore said.
A Skydive Sussex employee who answered a press call said that the representative capable of commenting on the matter was currently "out in the field."
Outside the court, Parlatore told reporters that the search warrants he received this week show how what he called New York City's "Orwellian" surveillance capabilities failed to keep the building secure.
"As much as the security around the World Trade Center was completely missing to prevent anyone from getting in, the surveillance surrounding it was pervasive," he said. "They have license-plate readers down there that track every single car that goes in and out of Manhattan, and keeps that record back several months."
Prosecutors might be refusing a plea deal "to justify their incredible waste of taxpayer dollars," Parlatore theorized.
The old World Trade Center towers attracted its share of daredevils as well.
The most famous - tightrope walker Philippe Petit - traipsed between the Twin Towers for 45 minutes in 1974 and was arrested after completing his death-defying act. Prosecutors agreed to drop all charges against Petit in return for his agreeing to perform a free aerial show in Central Park, The New York Times reported at the time.
Meanwhile, Parlatore said he plans to freely admit to jurors that his clients were the jumpers and intends to clear them of the burglary charge by clinging to the statute's literal implication of those who enter "unlawfully in a building with intent to commit a crime therein."
But the defendants' actions here did not occur "in" the building, Parlatore said.
Rossig, who was standing by his lawyer's side, acknowledged that he "committed a crime."
"Let us do some community service," he said. "Give us back the time that's been wasted, and everybody can go on with our lives."