Parachutist says Empire State Building officials defamed him
By SAMUEL MAULL
January 15, 2008
NEW YORK - A former TV host who tried to parachute from the 86th-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building is suing the skyscraper's operators for $12 million, claiming they defamed him by saying he acted illegally.
Jeb Corliss, of Malibu, Calif., says in court papers that the 102-story landmark's operators knew when they made the statement that a judge had dismissed the charge that had been filed against him after his arrest.
Corliss' lawyer, Mark Jay Heller, said no law prohibits jumping from the Empire State Building or any other city structure. He said no signs in the building or statements on visitors' tickets warn against jumping.
Corliss was arrested in April 2006 after he climbed a fence around the observation deck but before he could jump. Days later, he was fired as host of the Discovery Channel's "Stunt Junkies" show.
Corliss, 31, was disguised in a mask and a fat suit. Under the padding he wore a black jump suit and the parachute. He also wore a helmet topped with a camera so he could record the planned plunge.
He said that after security guards handcuffed him to the fence, a police officer saved his life by cutting the parachute rig off his body. He said he explained that he would be killed if the parachute opened because it would jerk his body away from the building and tear his arms out of his shoulders.
In January 2007, state Supreme Court Justice Michael Ambrecht dismissed the indictment against Corliss, saying his actions did not rise to the level of first-degree reckless endangerment, the only crime for which he was indicted.
Heller said outside Manhattan's state Supreme Court, where he filed the lawsuit, that the judge clearly said his client's conduct "was not unlawful."
"They (building officials) said he acted illegally," Heller said. "He did not, and it was defamation for them to allege that he did."
A spokeswoman for the Empire State Building said she had no comment on Corliss' lawsuit.
Last week, the district attorney's office asked a state appeals court to reinstate the charge against Corliss. The court said it would decide later.
Heller also denounced prosecutors for charging Corliss, saying, "It was inappropriate for the district attorney's office to manipulate statutes and try to use reckless endangerment to put my client in jail."
Empire State Building officials filed a $12 million lawsuit last April against Corliss, claiming his stunt attempt was illegal and dangerous and caused the building economic loss, damaged its reputation as a safe venue and caused injury to security guards who stopped him during a struggle. The lawsuit is pending.
Corliss claims to have more than 1,000 BASE (building, antenna, span, earth) parachute jumps. He said Tuesday these included a leap from the Eiffel Tower in Paris and from the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which, at 1,482 feet, were the world's tallest buildings from 1998 to 2004.