Judge scolds 1 World Trade Center skydivers, won't toss felony case against them

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NEW YORK — Three extreme-skydiving enthusiasts showed "inexcusable self-indulgence" by parachuting off the 1 World Trade Center tower, a judge said Tuesday in declining to toss out the felony case against them.

The decision puts James Brady, Marko Markovich, Andrew Rossig and their alleged lookout, Kyle Hartwell, on track for a January trial over the September 2013 stunt, which raised questions about security at one of the most protected sites in the country.

"I think a jury of our peers will see things differently," Rossig said afterward.

Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon saw the leap as "unsafe, reckless, and highly inappropriate behavior."

The jumpers' "thrill-seeking conduct is nothing more than inexcusable self-indulgence" that created "a substantial risk of injury to any number of people," even if no one was actually hurt, he wrote.

There were at least six cars on the road near where Brady landed, and Rossig kept a diary that makes plain the unpredictability of parachuting, Solomon wrote. He said the diary recounts prior jumps in which Rossig landed in trees and water, hit power lines and boasts of having "scared the innocents."

Rossig said some tough landings are deliberate, skillful choices to avoid coming down near people.

The parachutists acknowledge making the jump from the then-unfinished skyscraper, but they say that they didn't imperil anyone and that the charges are overreaching by embarrassed authorities. The four have pleaded not guilty to felony burglary, reckless endangerment and other charges. The burglary charge involves being in a building illegally with an intention to commit another crime: breaking a city law against parachuting from skyscrapers.

Brady, Markovich and Rossig say they walked through a hole in the trade center's fence, though prosecutors have said in court papers that Hartwell told police that Brady provided access to the building. An ironworker, he had worked at the trade center.

The three strode into the nation's tallest building, climbed stairs to the roof and spent about four hours enjoying the views before taking what they portray as a careful, 3 a.m. plunge by experienced jumpers over deserted streets.

"The charges reflect a dysfunctional and politically motivated attempt to set an unwarranted example," their lawyers wrote in an August court filing saying their clients were "scapegoats for the city's embarrassment over major security lapses."

Their arrests, six months after the jump, came shortly after a 16-year-old climbed to the top of the tower. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and completed 23 days of community service and two sessions of youth counseling. His climb and the parachutists' jump prompted security changes at the trade center.


Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @ jennpeltz.

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