Evidence disappears in jumper case

February 4, 2009 6:13:22 PM PST
Eyewitness News has learned that key evidence has suddenly vanished in a high-profile criminal case against a self-proclaimed daredevil who tried to jump from the Empire State Building.The defendant, Jeb Corliss, is charged with trying to parachute off the Empire State Building.

The Investigators' Sarah Wallace has the exclusive story.

As one law enforcement source put it, what if this were a murder case? How can evidence that's supposed to be secured suddenly disappear? And what may be a bigger deal, several sources say it appears this was a deliberate theft, that someone made a clean slit in the evidence envelope and took two video cassettes.

It was a sensational stunt when professional parachute jumper Corliss scurried like Spiderman over the fence of the Empire State Building's observation deck in April of 2006 in an attempt to base jump from the landmark.

Corliss was stopped and handcuffed to the fence by security guards. He was originally charged with felony reckless endangerment, but that charge was later dismissed. The charge was re-instated in early March as a reduced misdemeanor. A key piece of evidence, the helmet-cam on Corliss' head, captured his actions.

Well, two cassettes from that camera are now missing. They had been in the NYPD's property clerk's office in a sealed envelope that sources say was sliced open. The theft was apparently discovered within the last couple of weeks.

Corliss' attorney, Mark Jay Heller: "Someone at the police department has outdone him and performed the spectacular feat of making the evidence disappear, in spite of remarkable security there."
Sarah: "You think this was deliberate?"
Heller: "I think it was not only deliberate, but it was intentional."

Corliss' attorney believes the video from that helmet cam would contradict sworn statements by police officers who testified that Corliss acted recklessly. He says that could expose them to perjury charges.

"My client did not act recklessly, that he did not make physical contact with any of the police officers," Heller said.

Both the district attorney's office and police internal affairs are now investigating. An NYPD spokesman said, "The department has received an allegation concerning missing evidence from the district attorney's office and has initiated an investigation in regards."

Jeb Corliss' attorney says he's now preparing a motion to dismiss the case. The DA's office had no comment.