Empire State stuntman convicted

December 3, 2008 7:24:09 PM PST
A former television host who tried to parachute off the Empire State Building was convicted Wednesday of misdemeanor reckless endangerment. Jeb Corliss heard the verdict in Manhattan's state Supreme Court 2½ years after he was captured climbing over the protective fence on the 86th-floor observation deck of the midtown Manhattan skyscraper.

Corliss, who testified about his expertise and the safety measures he took before attempting the thwarted jump, slumped in his seat in what he admitted was surprise and disappointment as he heard the verdict.

"I can't believe it," the Malibu, Calif., resident said shortly afterward. "I'm very surprised."

Corliss, 32, could face up to a year in jail when Justice Thomas Farber sentences him on Jan. 22. However, daredevils who attempted similar stunts in the past have usually been fined and ordered to do community service.

Corliss, former host of the Discovery Channel's "Stunt Junkies" program, claims to have made more than 1,000 safe BASE (building, span, antenna, earth) jumps from structures and cliffs in the United States, Japan, Russia, France and Malaysia.

He was seized and arrested April 27, 2006, after climbing over the observation deck's fence and struggling with building security officials.

When arrested at the 102-story landmark, Corliss was disguised in a mask and a fat suit. Under the suit he wore a black jump suit and a parachute. He also wore a helmet topped with a camera so he could record his jump.

The Discovery Channel dropped Corliss after his arrest, saying it was disappointed "at his serious lack of judgment and his reckless behavior." He said Wednesday that he had expected to earn $250,000 as the show's host in 2007.

Jurors deliberated a day and a half. At 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, they said they believed they would report an 8-4 deadlock for conviction, but after hearing testimony read to them in the afternoon, they agreed Corliss was guilty.

Juror Angelique LeDoux, a 38-year-old writer who lives in Manhattan, said she was among those who initially wanted to acquit Corliss. But hearing his testimony read again and a literal interpretation of the reckless endangerment charge convinced her and the other jurors he was guilty.

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