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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

'Skyscraperman' Dan Goodwin May Climb Over Trespassing Charges, Too

Posted By on Wed, Sep 8, 2010 at 12:01 AM

click to enlarge Dan Goodwin, possibly not trespassing
  • Dan Goodwin, possibly not trespassing
You'd think climbing up the side of the Millennium Tower in broad daylight would be an open-and-shut trespassing case. But, then, you'd have thought vaulting a moat and fence to recline in the San Francisco Zoo's Grizzly Bear Grotto would have been a slam dunk trespass conviction as well.

A judge threw out that charge last year -- and, based on the same reading of the law, trespassing charges may not stick to Goodwin nearly as well as the wallclimber stuck to the skyscraper.

Technically, trespassing -- California Penal Code Section 602 -- not only requires you wander onto others' property but follow up that breach with occupation. Mentally ill homeless man Kenneth Herron did not intend to reside in the Grizzly Bear Grotto -- and "Spider Dan" Goodwin certainly didn't want to live in or on Millennium Towers (who can afford it?).

"He didn't occupy, so it's the same thing as the bear case," says University of San Francisco professor of law Bob Talbott. "It's complicated."

For example, you wouldn't think to put "no trespassing" signs on the 58th story of a building to dissuade a climber -- but, in this case, that could be a point in Goodwin's order, says the professor.

"Spider Dan" Goodwin
  • "Spider Dan" Goodwin
A subsection of the trespassing laws does prohibit "refusing or failing to leave land, real property, or structures belonging to or lawfully occupied by another and not open to the general public, upon being requested to leave by ... a peace officer at the request of the owner." While police and other law enforcement personnel asked Goodwin to come down, "I don't know if that's enough," says Talbot. The cops weren't issuing a proclamation on behalf of the Millennium Towers' owner -- which appears to be what the law demands.

Also complicating matters is that Goodwin has been making noise about a possible First Amendment defense of his right to show how vulnerable skyscrapers are to terrorist attack. That's interesting, because laws against trespassing don't apply to people "engaging in activities protected by the California or United States Constitution."

"Any Constitutionally protected rights will make this case a little more complicated than what it looks," affirms Talbot. When it comes to trespassing, "He might have some good defenses to that."

It remains to be seen whether as spirited a defense can be mounted against the criminal nuisance charge. Also remaining to be seen is whether Goodwin will claim he was compelled to break the law because the voice of male model Tyson Beckford told him to do so -- as was the case with Herron.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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