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Teen who climbed World Trade Center ordered to youth offenders program

Trade Center Climber_Cham.jpg

April 2, 2014: Justin Casquejo arrives for his court date in New York. The 16-year-old boy described as a thrill-seeker bypassed an inattentive security guard in the middle of the night and climbed a ladder to the spire of 1 World Trade Center, where he apparently took pictures, authorities said. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

A daring teenager who sneaked to the top of the nation's tallest building — 1 World Trade Center — will be assessed in a program for youthful offenders, a judge said Wednesday.

Dressed in a dark suit and red tie, Justin Casquejo appeared before Midtown Community Court Judge Felicia Mennin, who ordered the 16-year-old to return on April 30.

The slight, shy-looking youth stood quietly before the judge, saying nothing during the brief hearing. He and his lawyer declined comment as they rushed out of the building into a taxi.

Casquejo, of Weehawken, N.J., was originally charged with criminal trespass. But prosecutors added a BASE jumping charge — a reference to his alleged climbing in the unfinished building. Both are misdemeanors.

He was arrested last month after slipping through a hole in the fence surrounding the 104-story skyscraper at about 4 a.m. and taking an elevator to the spire.

According to court documents, the teen "slipped through an opening in the gate that is approximately 4 feet off the ground and approximately 1 square foot in area."

He used a ladder to reach scaffolding that took him to the sixth floor, Detective Deborah Scheffold said in the documents. Casquejo then took the elevator to the 88th floor, climbed the stairs to the 104th floor and rooftop, and used a ladder again to reach the antenna.

Finally, on his way down about two hours later, he was stopped by a building security guard.

The intrepid climber said he had plotted on March 15, the eve of the climb, how to enter the building.

"I was walking around all night trying to figure out how I would enter it," he was quoted as telling a police officer the next morning.

"I know there is no trespassing there," the youth told the officer.

The 1,776-foot skyscraper is the nation's tallest building. It was built to replace the twin towers destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Authorities said Casquejo dressed like a construction worker and took photographs from the top.

On Wednesday, he was mobbed by the media as he arrived at the alternative-sentencing court, which emphasizes community service as a way for low-level offenders to pay back the neighborhood for quality-of-life offenses such as prostitution, shoplifting and trespassing.

Prosecutors have requested a so-called "youth assessment," an in-depth evaluation of the defendant and his life circumstances.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the 16-acre trade center site, is reassessing security there in light of two lapses since last summer. In addition to the incident involving Casquejo, three people parachuted from the building in September, producing a video of their jump.

New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Wednesday that despite the breaches, he remains confident in the ability of various public and private entities to control the site.

The New York Police Department provides security around the site, the Port Authority is responsible for the property itself and the Durst Organization was hired to secure 1 World Trade Center.

However, Bratton said, the NYPD is in discussions with Port Authority security chief Joe Dunne "about what they're trying to do to enhance security over there." Bratton said detectives are still conducting interviews to try to learn how four people charged in the parachuting feat gained access to the high-rise.

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