Man arrested for scaling NY Times building

July 9, 2008 6:25:39 PM PDT
A self-proclaimed expert on al-Qaida climbed part-way up the New York Times' 52-story building early Wednesday to publicize his activism against the terrorist organization, citing two previous climbers as inspiration.David Malone, 29, reached the 11th floor of the Manhattan building before descending to a ledge, where he spent hours making cell phone calls and talking to police. He was arrested about 5:20 a.m.

At one point, Malone hung a small white and red banner, which covered part of the letter "T" in "The" on the Times' sign. His banner referenced al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, police said.

Malone said news reports of two other climbers on the building in the past five weeks inspired him to seek publicity for his own activism, and those stories helped him figure out how to do it, according to police.

On June 5, Alain Robert climbed the skyscraper and unfurled a banner about global warming, followed hours later by Renaldo Clarke, proclaiming the dangers of malaria. The building, which the newspaper company moved into last year, is designed with slats that the men climbed like a ladder.

Malone called a night editor at the New York Daily News - housed in another Manhattan building - during his climb, saying Americans underestimate al-Qaida's threat to national security.

Malone, from West Hartford, Conn., is an activist who studies al-Qaida, according to a posting on his Web site. He is the author of the book "Bin Laden's Plan," which argues that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were part of a plot to provoke the U.S. into invading Iraq.

Police brought the Daily News editor to the scene, and hostage negotiators worked to get the climber down to the fifth floor, where he was invited inside to speak to the editor, said police spokesman Paul Browne. That's when officers took him into custody.

Malone was taken to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation and arrested on charges of reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.

He was awaiting arraignment.

Dozens of police and firefighters responded about 1:30 a.m., when the climber was first spotted. Streets were closed and an inflatable cushion was placed in front of the building's main entrance.

"The department's view is these antics put the public at grave risk, not to mention the potential for injury or death for the climber. The police department treats it seriously," Browne said.

Crews worked later Wednesday to remove the dozens of white ceramic rods from the building's lower facade. Modifications were made to the building and security was added after the other stunts.

The company was investigating how Malone overcame the additional obstacles and refused to discuss whether other measures were being put into place, Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said.

In the other incidents, both men made it to the top before being arrested. A grand jury dismissed charges of reckless endangerment and trespassing against Robert after hearing about his climbing experience and safeguards. Reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct charges are still pending against Clarke.