Prosecutors insist on felony charge against World Trade Center jumpers

NEW YORK Tue Jun 24, 2014 9:11pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City prosecutors said on Tuesday that any potential plea deal with three men accused of parachuting from the top of the 104-story One World Trade Center tower must include a felony criminal charge.

Marko Markovich, Andrew Rossig and James Brady, who authorities say were recorded on security cameras landing at the bottom of the tower following an early morning jump, pleaded not guilty in May to a felony charge of burglary, and misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment and unauthorized jumping from a structure.

An attorney for the men on Tuesday told a judge in a Manhattan courtroom that the three men would agree to plead guilty but only to the misdemeanor charges.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office rejected the offer, saying only a deal that carried a felony count would be considered.

Surveillance cameras around the World Trade Center, still under construction on the site of the destroyed Twin Towers, recorded figures in black suits and helmets leaving the area with parachutes at about 3 a.m. local time on Sept. 30.

Video recorded from the helmet of the men documenting the jump was posted on YouTube.

The defendants, who prosecutors say climbed through a hole in fencing to get into New York City's tallest tower, have said the charge of burglary was improperly applied to their case.

They also maintain that the stunt was well orchestrated and did not endanger anyone on the ground or building.

A fourth man, Kyle Hartwell, has also been charged in connection with the base jumping stunt. Hartwell, who was on the ground allegedly playing lookout, might be able to strike a deal that does not include felony burglary because he did not enter the tower, prosecutors said.

The men will appear in court again on Aug. 5.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Lisa Shumaker)

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