A leap of 104 stories

Warwick Valley High School grad among four daredevils charged with jumping off the new World Trade Tower last September

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  • James Brady, left, and Andrew Rossig, right, two parachutists who jumped from One World Trader Center in September 2013, are accompanied by attorney Timothy Parlatore to surrender to police, in New York on March 24. Monday's arrests come eight days after a 16-year-old was arrested on charges of climbing up to the top of the nation's biggest skyscraper. Police said they were looking for two parachutists seen floating near the building Sept. 30. The defense attorneys say three accused jumpers and an alleged accomplice on the ground are expecting to face felony burglary charges. The attorneys say the defendants are experienced BASE jumpers, the acronym stands for "building, span, antenna, earth." The lawyers say the men took care to keep from endangering anyone. Rossig is a graduate of Warwick Valley High School. AP Photo/Richard Drew

Editor's note: This story contains information from various media outlets as well as original reporting by Warwick Advertiser writer Hema Eastley. The other sources are cited throughout the article.

NEW YORK — The four daredevils entered the 1 World Trade Center site through a hole in the fence barely 20 feet from the building.

It was in the dark of night last Sept. 30, and no security camera recorded their entry.

They walked into the building which did not have a door or a security guard, and three climbed the stairs of the 104-story structure unimpeded until they reached the roof.

The extreme-skydiving enthusiasts then parachuted off the building, the highest in the Western Hemisphere, and landed on a deserted Manhattan street.

They wrapped their parachutes and drove off in a car, believing that no one would know of their escapade.

Details of how the four men executed their plan was revealed by the lawyer for one of the men, Andrew Rossig, 33, a Slate Hill resident and a graduate of Warwick High School.

Police eventually found out about the escapade, and the four men were arraigned Monday on felony burglary charges. They also could also be charged with reckless endangerment and jumping from a structure.

Rossig’s codefendants are James Brady, 32, of Kings Park; Marko Markovich, 27, from Lake Ronkonkoma; and Kyle Hartwell, 29, from East Patchogue.

Security issue

Their caper has transfixed the nation and beyond, bringing a barrage of media coverage and questions about security at the lower Manhattan site, which is supposed to be one of the most tightly protected in the country.

Earlier this month, Justin Casquejo, 16, was arrested after he slipped through a gap in a fence, eluded an inattentive security guard and spent about two hours atop the 1,776-foot (541-meter)-tall tower.

The site is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and is still under construction.

Rossig couldn’t be reached for comment, and his attorney Timothy C. Parlatore said his client was trying to avoid the press after the media attention of the last two days.

“He’s not wanting to do too many interviews,” Parlatore said.

He suggested that while his client hadn’t expected this outcome, the incident had brought light to security issues at the building.

“My hope and expectation is that with all the frenzy, the Port Authority has fixed the holes,” said Parlatore, who added that his client had not used the same hole as Casquejo but another one in the fence.

'We just kind of walked in'

Rossig described his experience Monday to several journalists who flocked to First Precinct Station House in Lower Manhattan where he went to surrender.

“We just kind of walked in,” Rossig, told The New York Times. “It’s supposed to be the most secure building in the world. God forbid it was somebody else getting in there with a real intention to harm New Yorkers.”

The New York Police Department said last year that investigators were looking for two parachutists in dark jumpsuits seen floating near the building around 3 a.m. on Sept. 30, landing by a nearby skyscraper and walking away.

It was "very exhilarating,'' Rossig said Monday, according to The Associated Press. “It's a fair amount of free-fall time …. You really get to enjoy the view of the city and see it from a different perspective.''

Rossig, an avid BASE jumper - the acronym stands for building, antenna, span, earth – added that the skydivers took care to keep from endangering anyone, choosing a time when streets would be largely deserted.

Surveillance video

Parlatore said investigators zeroed in on Rossig, Brady, Markovich and Hartwell after a surveillance video in the area saw them land and get into their getaway car.

It took several months, but in February arrived at their homes with search warrants and seized parachuting equipment, cameras and video of the jump, which hadn't been posted online or otherwise publicized.

But authorities didn't signal arrests were imminent until Casquejo's arrest last week.

“This is certainly not what everybody was expecting or what they were hoping for,” said Parlatore who described his client as a private guy. “There are a lot of things to regret, that it was so easy, that it came up this way.”

According to the Daily News, Rossig and Brady were previously arrested in December 2012 for trying to jump from a tower at Co-op City in the Bronx. The duo and two other men were on the roof of a 33-floor building with parachutes when they were caught by cops.

Rossig also received tickets for disorderly conduct after jumping off an Orange County bridge in 2008, the Daily News said.

“The intent was for nobody to ever find out and for nobody to get hurt and nobody did get hurt. I’m just trying not to go to jail,” Rossig told the New York Post before he went to surrender to the NYPD.

Hartwell's lawyer, Joseph Murray, said Hartwell also surrendered and declined to comment further. Markovich's attorney, Joseph Corozzo, said his client was a ``very responsible individual'' and highly trained parachuting instructor.

``He has an impeccable background, and I just hope that he's not turned into some form of a scapegoat for the Port Authority's shortcomings'' in security, Corozzo said.

Police Commissioner William Bratton said the investigation was a joint endeavor by the NYPD and the Port Authority police.

“These men violated the law and placed themselves, as well as others, in danger,'' Bratton said. “These arrests should send a message to anyone thinking about misusing a landmark this way. They will be tracked down and they will face serious charges. Being a thrill-seeker does not give immunity from the law.''

The skyscraper, still under construction, crowns the rebuilt World Trade Center, a project steeped in security concerns. Mayor Bill de Blasio has called what Casquejo is accused of doing ``shocking and troubling.''

The NYPD devotes more than 200 officers, surveillance cameras and other technology to protect the perimeter of the site, while Port Authority police and private security agents guard the inside. Ultimately, plans call for a $40 million system of barriers and checkpoints around the 16-acre (6.4 hectare) trade center site.

But Parlatore said Rossig said the jumpers got in simply by walking through a gap in a fence, echoing an account the Port Authority says Casquejo gave police about what he did.

An official not authorized to discuss the investigation and speaking on the condition of anonymity disputed that account, saying that Brady used his work access to secret his parachuting pals into the site. Brady's attorney, Andrew Mancilla, denied that and cited Rossig's version of what happened.

While Casquejo, of Weehawken, New Jersey, fights a misdemeanor trespassing charge, the parachute jump defendants were arrested on more serious felony burglary charges. The offense entails being in a building illegally with an intent to commit another crime _ in this case, breaking a 2008 city law against parachuting off buildings more than 50 feet (15 meters) tall, defense lawyers said.

The misdemeanor law was passed after former television stuntman Jeb Corliss tried to parachute off the Empire State Building in 2006 and three climbers separately scaled The New York Times' 52-story headquarters in 2008.

A judge dismissed a felony reckless-endangerment case against Corliss, noting his BASE jumping experiences and efforts to minimize the risk of his leap.

Two Times climbers pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless endangerment. The third admitted disorderly conduct, a violation, after a grand jury heard about his climbing experience and safeguards and refused to indict him on more serious charges. All were sentenced to community service.

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