Sky divers plead not guilty in World Trade Center BASE jump

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Three sky divers who authorities say parachuted off 1 World Trade Center pleaded not guilty to felony burglary charges Tuesday, claiming they were "BASE jumping" from the iconic skyscraper for sport and to catch a view of city with no intent to commit burglary.

James Brady of Kings Point; Marko Markovich, a skydiving instructor from Lake Ronkonkoma; and Andrew Rossig of upstate Slate Hill acknowledged the Sept. 30 leap from the unfinished building, the nation's tallest and one of its most security-conscious. But they pleaded not guilty to burglary, reckless endangerment and other charges. They each remained free on $3,500 cash bail, online records show.

Attorney Tim Parlatore asked State Supreme Court Justice Charles H. Solomon in Manhattan to reduce the charges at Tuesday's arraignment. "BASE jumping is a misdemeanor. The sole felony count of burglary is an improper use of the law," Parlatore said outside court.

Rossig said he jumped off the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere to "experience life from a different perspective."

"It is a beautiful place to see the city," Rossig said, adding he would jump at the chance to do it again -- legally and for charity.

The stunt, however, threw a spotlight on security at 1 World Trade. The Port Authority has pumped millions of dollars into maintaining a high-risk security system. The building was constructed under the premise it could be a terror target.

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Following the BASE jumps, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked the Department of Homeland Security to audit the building's security systems.

That was followed in March by Justin Casquejo, 16, of Weehawken, N.J., who, authorities charge, trespassed into the building. He videotaped himself from the top of the tower, which stands at 1,776 feet tall.

The criminal complaint also notes the arrest of a fourth man, who is not accused of jumping from the tower. Kyle Hartwell of East Patchogue is accused of being a lookout for the jumpers. Hartwell also pleaded not guilty.

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The jumpers received support from two family members of victims from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The letters claim the stunts brought attention to security lapses at the construction site and asked the judge to be lenient.

Port Authority spokesman Andrew Hayes said changes to security policies and "physical strengthening at the site" have been implemented as a result of the security breaches.

Said Rossig, "My intent was not to poke holes into a secured site. Maybe some good may come from it."

With AP

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