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DA: Send latest bridge climber to the slammer

Brooklyn Daily
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The French tourist who illegally climbed one of the Brooklyn Bridge’s suspension cables needs to be sent up the river, Brooklyn’s top law enforcement official said today.

District Attorney Ken Thompson is hitting the man, Yonathan Souid, with four separate charges for the jaunt, which Thompson says put people in danger. A Russian sightseer got off with a sentence of community service and a fine for a similar excursion in August, but Thompson pledged to try to make Souid serve hard time.

“This defendant’s foolish and unlawful conduct is a breach of security and a danger to himself and others. It will not be tolerated,” the lawman said in a statement. “This is not a game and we will be seeking jail time.”

Souid posted $7,000 in bail on Monday, and his attorney James Medows said prosecutors are blowing the adventure out of proportion.

“He was acting as a foolish tourist,” Medows said. “He didn’t know it would cause such an uproar.”

Souid was visiting New York on a weeklong religious trip, Medows said. He went for a walk on the bridge on Nov. 16 at 12:29 pm, and supposedly decided to climb one of the supports to take some photos, according to prosecutors.

A police officer spotted Souid and took him into custody, documents state, though it is unclear exactly how the collar took place. The District Attorney’s Office charged him with reckless endangerment, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and a violation of the administrative code that “prohibits climbing, jumping or suspending oneself from structures.”

This is the third instance of foreign nationals climbing the iconic span in recent months. A pair of German artists claimed to have climbed the 276-foot towers back in July in order to replace the bridge’s American flags with hand-sewn, all-white versions to honor bridge designer John Roebling. The following month, police arrested Russian tourist Yaroslav Kolchin after he strolled up a cable to the top of the Brooklyn-side tower to take some cellphone photos.

Medows said the city should have beefed up security on the bridge after these incidents, and said if they did his client never would have performed his high-wire act.

“If you’re going to point fingers, you should point them at the NYPD,” he said.

Police briefly deployed counterterrorism officers to the iconic span following the flag switcheroo, and the NYPD’s golf-cart-like Interceptors have been stationed on the bridge walkway in recent months.

Souid returns to court on Dec. 9.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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