NEW YORK – A French tourist was just trying to get a better vantage point to take a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge when he walked out onto the beams over traffic, his lawyer said Monday.
Yonathan Souid, 23, of Esnandes, France, was charged Monday with reckless endangerment and criminal trespass. He posted bail and was released and must surrender his passport. Prosecutors say Souid climbed over a fence on the bridge's pedestrian walkway around noon Sunday. He was standing on beams connected to the tower on the Manhattan side.
The daredevil feat comes seven months after two German artists scaled both towers of the Brooklyn Bridge and switched the American flags for white flags.
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said such conduct is dangerous and won't be tolerated, he said he is seeking jail time.
"This defendant's foolish and unlawful conduct is a breach of security and a danger to himself and others," he said.
Souid was in town for a religious conference and had been in the city a little over a week. His attorney James Medows says he must postpone his education now, while he waits for the case to be cleared. He described Souid as simply a clueless tourist unaware of what the act meant in a post 9/11 New York, and said he was only trying to get a good photo. He never snapped the picture — police arrested him too quickly.
"He did something that, as New Yorkers, we know is a foolish thing to do," he said. "But he didn't have the intent to scare society. He was just acting stupidly."
On July 22, two American flags were swiped from the bridge and replaced with white ones, prompting security concerns. Two German artists took credit for the stunt. A month later, a Russian tourist climbed to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge to take pictures and was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment, trespassing and disorderly conduct. According to a criminal complaint, he said he did it for fun. In response, security was beefed up around the bridge. The NYPD and the Department of Transportation were working to install a network of cameras and sensors along the bridges' towers, according to city officials.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York proposed a federal law last month that carries up to five years in prison for scaling prominent national structures such as the World Trade Center, Statue of Liberty and Golden Gate Bridge. His proposed maximum sentence of five years is a considerable jump from the one year in New York City's trespassing law.