Skyscraper climber makes court appearance

June 11, 2008 1:38:04 PM PDT
A French daredevil in trouble for scaling a skyscraper to press for action on global warming should be honored instead of prosecuted, his lawyer said Wednesday.Alain Robert, one of two men who climbed the 52-story New York Times building on the same day last week, appeared in Manhattan court on misdemeanor charges that could land him in jail for up to a year.

In 1977, mountain climber George Willig was arrested for scaling the World Trade Center, but he was later was given a friendly welcome at City Hall by Mayor Abraham D. Beame. He was made to pay only a symbolic $1.10, or one cent per floor.

"I'm hoping that Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg will react just the way his proud predecessor did," Robert's lawyer, Daniel Arshack, said outside court. Last week, though, Bloomberg criticized the stunt, saying it put people in jeopardy.

The 45-year-old Frenchman scaled the newly constructed Times building last Thursday. Hours later, another man, Renaldo Clarke, did the same thing to promote awareness about the dangers of malaria. The building is covered with slats that allowed the men to climb the tower like a ladder.

Robert's next court date is Oct. 1; prosecutors have until then to decide whether to present his case to a grand jury. In the meantime, said Robert, "If there is something I can do for the city of New York, I would be very happy to do it."

He is charged with reckless endangerment, trespassing, disorderly conduct and graffiti - a reference to the banner he displayed on his way up the building. But Arshack said none of Robert's activities fit those charges.

Arshack added that Robert took every possible precaution to make sure no one was injured. Robert has scaled more than 80 structures in all, including the Empire State Building and Chicago's Sears Tower.

Clarke is free on $2,000 bail and is due back in court July 16.