A former television host who tried to parachute off the Empire State Building testified Monday that he was afraid security guards would cause his death when they grabbed him after he climbed over a fence 86 stories above the street.
Jeb Corliss, 32, of Malibu, Calif., said that when the guards grabbed him and handcuffed him to the fence on an observation deck in April 2006, he told them repeatedly to let him go. He said he warned that if his parachute opened, his arms would be ripped from his body.
Defense lawyer Mark Heller showed the jury a videotape of Corliss running to the fence and athletically climbing over it before being grabbed through the bars by security guards who yelled, "Don't jump! Don't jump! Come back."
Corliss said a city police officer quickly cut the parachute off. He said no one had ever stopped him before and he was surprised the guards caught him.
Corliss is on trial in Manhattan state Supreme Court on a misdemeanor reckless endangerment charge. He faces up to a year in jail if convicted.
Prosecutors say that despite Corliss' claim to have studied foot and motor traffic patterns around the 102-story landmark, he simply could not predict the movements of people on the street below and could have caused injuries.
Corliss, former host of Discovery Channel's "Stunt Junkies," says he is not reckless. He says he has done more than 1,000 safe jumps from buildings and cliffs in this country, Japan, Russia, France and Malaysia.
Corliss told jurors, "I don't think there's anything wrong with what I do."
Assistant District Attorney Mark Crooks got Corliss to admit that even with a precise landing after a jump from the building, his collapsing parachute might have covered the windshield of a moving car and blocked the driver's view.
Corliss' lawyer showed a second video of the defendant doing acrobatic dives from tall structures and cliffs in several countries and from Angel Falls in Venezuela, the highest waterfall in the world.
Closing arguments in the trial were expected Tuesday morning.