'Skyscraperman' Dan Goodwin Climbs Into Court

Categories: Law & Order
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Does this look like trespassing to you?
Dan "Skyscraperman" Goodwin lived up to his nickname in September when he methodically scaled the Millennium Tower in two hours and 15 minutes.

Any 54-year-old man who does his hair like "Spider Dan" is seeking attention -- whether he scales tall buildings or not. Goodwin says his motivation (for the buildings, not the hair) is twofold: To demonstrate what a cancer survivor is physically capable of, and to expose the safety and security shortcomings of tall buildings.

This he may yet do. But he also may expose the shocking shortcomings of the state's trespassing laws.

Spider Dan.jpg
'Spider Dan' Goodwin
As SF Weekly wrote earlier, you'd think a self-professed attention hound mounting a skyscraper, unfurling a flag, and surrendering to cops would be an open-and-shut trespassing case. And yet, that's what prosecutors thought heading into last year's trial of Kenneth Herron, the man who wandered into the Grizzly Bear Grotto at the zoo. Herron's public defender convinced the judge that, since the mentally ill homeless man never intended to take up residence in the dangerous bears' enclosure, the trespassing rap was unsuitable. Herron ended up beating all the charges. The law can be a bear.

Spider Dan is charged with trespassing under Penal Code Section 602 -- just as Herron was.

The San Francisco District Attorney's office is prosecuting Goodwin under subsection "O" of that code, which prohibits "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 did ask Goodwin to come down during his climb, "I don't know if that's enough," University of San Francisco law professor Bob Talbot earlier told SF Weekly. The police weren't issuing a proclamation on behalf of Millennium Towers' owner -- which Talbot believes is what the law demands.

He's confused by the whole thing, too
"He didn't occupy, so it's the same thing as the bear case," says Talbot. "It's complicated."

Goodwin is also charged with being a public nuisance and unauthorized entry of property, which may not be so susceptible to the creative strategies of ingenious defense attorneys. Should Spider Dan climb out of a trespassing charge -- and he just may -- a surreal precedent could be established. One could clamber up the side of a skyscraper and then settle down for a nap in a grizzly bear penthouse -- and be on the right side of the law.

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