The New York man who climbed down a rope ladder from the Tappan Zee Bridge and dangled for hours while traffic backed up, apologized Thursday as he was arraigned.
Michael Davitt, 54, also told Judge Doris Friedman he would consider pleading guilty to some of the charges against him, but she refused to let him do so without a lawyer.
When Friedman asked Davitt if he could afford a lawyer he said, "I'm pretty much impecunious" so she appointed an attorney for him. The lawyer, Richard Vercollone, entered non-guilty pleas to charges including criminal trespass, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest.
Davitt told the judge, "I apologize for the problems I caused," referring to his Nov. 7 demonstration halfway between the bridge deck and the Hudson River below. He was protesting being fired from a Rockland County job as a drug counselor in 2008.
Traffic headed toward New York City on the state Thruway was backed up for miles as state police decided how to capture Davitt. They eventually lowered him toward police boats on the river. He leaped from his ladder and tried to swim away, but eventually surrendered.
Just before entering the courtroom Thursday, Davitt said jumping into the Hudson was "cathartic."
"When I hit the water, I almost felt like I was born again," he said. "It was like everything I had suffered was gone."
He added, however, that his father now refuses to speak to him.
He said, "I did wrong, so depending on the circumstances and what they want to offer, I may plead guilty." He said he hoped prosecutors would take into accounts his reasons for the demonstration.
"None of this needed to happen," he said. He called the entire event "surreal."
Davitt was allowed to remain free on $500 bail. On Tuesday night, he was ordered out of a meeting of the Rockland Legislature when he became loud and boisterous, the county sheriff said. Davitt was not arrested.
During Thursday's court session, one of several traffic charges against Davitt, a citation for abandoning his van on the bridge, was dropped for technical reasons.
Davitt, of Garnerville, was told to return to court Dec. 9.