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Michael Davitt, Tappan Zee Bridge, protester rejects plea deal

Michael Davitt say Rockland Co. owes him $500,000 in back pay. (April 17, 2012)

A defiant Michael Davitt rejected a plea deal to serve six months in jail and pay a steep fine for illegally climbing the Tappan Zee Bridge -- and is due back in court on Aug. 7 for motions that will take his case one step closer to trial.

The 54-year-old former employee for the Rockland County Department of Mental Health said that it was "usurious" of the state to fine him $33,818 for the police rescue operation. "I'm not going to charge the State Police for my clothes and my sign, which they still have," said the dangler during an April 17 appearance in Greenburgh Town Court.

His attorney, Richard Vercollone, repeatedly urged Davitt not to speak and told Town Justice Walter Rivera, "My advice to my client is not to say anything."

On Nov. 7, 2011, the sign-toting Davitt tied up traffic for four hours on the Hudson River span. After parking his Dodge van in a southbound lane, he climbed onto a catwalk before lowering himself on a homemade rope ladder that left him swinging 75 feet below the southbound lanes near Tarrytown. During efforts to reel him in, Davitt jumped into the river and attempted to swim away from a police boat.

He was charged with four misdemeanors: reckless endangerment, governmental obstruction, criminal trespass and resisting arrest, plus one violation related to disorderly conduct.

Davitt, a resident of the Haverstraw hamlet of Garnerville, said the case has taken a toll on his marriage and that his wife recently moved out. Until his August appearance, he said that he will be working on his job-related lawsuit against the county. He said that he is currently unemployed and surviving on disability payments.

"We are not going to comment on a personnel matter that continues to be the subject of litigation," said Ron Levine, spokesman for the Rockland County executive's office.

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