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UK: 5 months in prison -- suspended -- for aiming a laser at a police helicopter

A 26-year-old Bristol man was sentenced March 19 2014 to five months in prison, suspended for two years, for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter. In addition, he must complete 200 hours of unpaid work within the next year.

On January 20 2014, a National Police Air Service helicopter was at 1500 feet altitude, searching for a missing person. Gavin Hoskins was "playing" with the laser, aiming it first at rooftops and then aiming 3-4 times at the helicopter. He did not think the laser had the range to reach the aircraft, which broke off the search to track Hoskins.

According to the prosecutor, “it does not appear that the pilot on this occasion was distracted.”

When arrested, Hoskins told police that the was sorry and had been "stupid" to use the laser pen, which was still in his pocket.

The laser had been purchased in Bulgaria for his young daughter, Haskins said to police.

At trial, Hoskins admitted recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. His lawyer said “it was not a deliberate act to endanger the pilot of the helicopter.”

The judge called Hoskin's actions "stupid and potentially extremely dangerous" and noted that a number of recent helicopter crashes have resulted in "destruction and death."

Hoskins, a security guard, lost his job -- apparently due to negative publicity surrounding the case.

From BBC News and the Western Daily Press.

US: Analysis of 14-year sentence for lasing Fresno police helicopter

The following is an analysis by LaserPointerSafety.com of the 14-year prison sentence given to Sergio Patrick Rodriguez on March 10 2014, for interfering with a police helicopter by hitting it with a laser beam about seven times.

Prior to this, the longest sentence anywhere in the world for a laser/aircraft incident was four years,
handed down in January 2010 to Jamie Allen Downie. For more information, see the page Sentences for laser offenses and click the tags on the left side to find jail terms of 0-6 months, 7-12 months, 13-24 months, 25-36 months, 37-48 months, and over 4 years.

Summary


Based on the government’s sentencing recommendation, 8 years of Rodriguez’s sentence were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.

In addition, the government told the judge that “[s]entencing Rodriguez to a substantial prison term will send an important deterrent message that could not be more timely.”

The government stated at one point that Rodriguez should receive 20 years to life imprisonment based on its analysis, but they would be satisfied with 14 years.

Rodriguez’s lawyer countered that the guidelines had been misapplied and the sentence should be only 57 months (4 3/4 years). The lawyer contended that Rodriguez was in his backyard, playing with the laser to see how far it could go and he had no knowledge of laser/aircraft hazards.
Read More...

US: California man sentenced to 14 years for aiming 65 mW laser at Fresno police helicopter

Sergio Patrick Rodriguez of Clovis, California, was sentenced March 10 2014 to 14 years in prison for interfering with an aircraft, plus 5 years in prison for aiming an $8.00 green laser pointer at an aircraft. The two sentences will be served concurrently; e.g. a maximum of 14 years. According to Rodriguez’s lawyer, he would serve a minimum of 12 years, factoring in a 15 percent sentence reduction for good behavior and a one-year credit for time served.

The 14-year sentence is the longest ever imposed for lasing an aircraft, anywhere in the world. Rodriguez’s lawyer unsuccessfully argued that a term of 57 months (4 3/4 years) would be “harsh, but ... is arguably a just punishment.” The previous longest sentence was 4 years for Jamie Allen Downie, sentenced in January 2010.

Sergio Patrick Rodriguez laser
Sergio Patrick Rodriguez

Federal sentencing guidelines take into account the crime itself as well as the defendant’s criminal history. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill said at sentencing that Rodriguez was “a walking crime spree.” Based on the government’s sentencing recommendation, 8 years of the sentence were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.

A more detailed analysis of the 14-year sentence is here.

The Rodriguez case began n the summer of 2012 when a helicopter from the Children’s Hospital of Central California was illuminated by a green laser. Fresno Police Department’s Air 1 was sent to investigate.

It was repeatedly and deliberately struck by the light. The beam was traced back to Rodriguez, now 26, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23. Pilots from both helicopters said the laser strikes caused significant visual interference.

The laser’s power was later measured as 65 milliwatts. This is 13 times the 5 mW limit for lasers marketed as “pointers” in the U.S. This 13x power increase leads to a 3.6 times increase in the distance at which Rodriguez’s laser was a hazard (see Note 1).

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US: Las Vegas area man, previously convicted of aiming lasers at helicopters, does it again six times

A 30-year-old Las Vegas area man was indicted February 18 2014 on six felony counts of aiming a laser at police helicopters.

James David Zipf had been convicted in Phoenix, Arizona in 2011 for aiming a blue laser at police helicopters. In May 2013 he moved to Henderson, Nevada, 12 miles from Las Vegas.

The indictment stated that Zipf aimed a laser at Las Vegas Metro Police helicopters six times between January 31 and February 12. In one of the attacks, the pilot was so disoriented that he landed the aircraft and ended his shift.

At a detention hearing, Zipf was ordered to remain in jail. The judge said he had endangered the helicopter crews, was a threat to the community, was not truthful to federal agents, and was using drugs.

Zipf faces up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each of the six counts.

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal, MyNews3 and CBS Las Vegas

UK: Nottingham area man fined £300 for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A 22-year-old man was fined £300 on February 18 2014 for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter whose noise was bothering him.

On January 26 2014, Craig Mather of Carlton (an eastern suburb of Nottingham) heard the helicopter and aimed a £20 laser pen at it. The pilot was distracted as he was attending a serious incident in Arnold, to the northwest of Carlton. Ground units were notified and went to Mather’s home.

Prosecutors said Mather told authorities that “the helicopter annoyed him, as it was always above his house, and wanted it to go away. He said he didn't know how far the laser went.”

In court, Mather admitted to the charge of directing or shining a light at a police helicopter, so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. The crime is punishable by a fine. He was also ordered to pay £85 in costs and a £30 victim surcharge.

From the Nottingham Post

US: Two years probation for Arizona man who aimed laser pointer at sheriff's plane

Tucson resident Jack Downey, 24, was sentenced on February 12 2014 to two years supervised probation in federal court for aiming a laser at a Pima County Sheriff’s plane. Downey and Daniel Pribula were suspected of aiming a green laser pointer at a commercial aircraft, on March 5 2013. The sheriff’s aircraft happened to be in the area. It went to investigate and was also hit by a laser, which was determined to be coming from Downey and Pribula’s location.

An FBI special agent who worked on the case said "I know a couple pilots that do have permanent injuries related to laser incidents because the intensity of the laser and the affects it has on parts on the eye."

From ABC15 and KVOA

UK: Police employee, 53, sentenced to two years community service, £3,500 in costs

A police community service officer (PCSO) was sentenced February 4 2014 to two years community service, and was ordered to pay £3,500 in costs, for pointing a green laser beam towards a police helicopter hovering above his home.

On May 20 2013, the helicopter was sent to investigate a shooting. As it hovered over Luton, a green laser beam dazzled the crew of three, leading to evasive action by the pilot. Officers on the ground traced the beam to 53-year-old James McIvor, a PCSO with British Transport Police. (A PCSO is a civilian member of police staff who is a uniformed non-warranted officer.)

James McIvor PCSO laser
James McIvor, PCSO, British Transport Police


McIvor told officers he had been using a laser pen to attract his elderly cat that was on top of his garage.

McIvor was convicted in December 2013 of acting in a negligent manner to endanger the safety of an aircraft. He was acquitted of a more serious charge of recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft.

From BBC News and Wikipedia’s PCSO page

US: Calif. man who "can't help himself from doing stupid things" sentenced to 21 months for lasing police helicopter

(The following is a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California. It was also released by the FBI, Sacramento Division.)

Clovis Man Sentenced For Aiming Laser At Sheriff Helicopter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Monday, January 27, 2014

Docket #: 1:13-CR-108 LJO

FRESNO, Calif. — Charles Conrad Mahaffey, 23, of Clovis, was sentenced today to 21 months in prison for aiming a laser pointer at a Fresno County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

Mahaffey’s sentence follows his guilty plea last November. According to court documents, Mahaffey deliberately tracked and struck Eagle 1, a Fresno County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, with a powerful red laser while the aircraft was assisting ground units on a call for a domestic disturbance. As a result, the pilot was distracted by the intense light and forced to break away from the call. The pilot reported the laser strikes to Air Traffic Control at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport and, with the help of the Clovis Police Department, was able to locate the source of the laser and identify Mahaffey as the suspect. In pleading guilty, Mahaffey admitted he knew it was a crime to point the laser at an aircraft but stated he, “just can’t help himself from doing stupid things.”
Read More...

UK: Jury finds man guilty of aiming at Blacon police helicopter

On January 22 2014, a jury unanimously found a 28-year-old man guilty of “conduct likely to endanger life” for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter.

The incident occurred in Blacon, an area in Chester (20 miles south of Liverpool) on August 11 2012. The helicopter was able to trace the laser beam back to a person in a garden, later identified as Richard James Brooks.

Sentencing of Brooks was scheduled for February 12.

From ChesterFirst

Wales: Suspended sentence for 8-minute lasing of police helicopter

A 22-year-old man from Greenfield, Flintshire was given a suspended sentence on January 9 2014 for aiming a laser in a “persistent and prolonged laser attack” on a North Wales Police helicopter.

On September 25 2013, the helicopter was called to find a missing person. The pilot was hovering at 1,200 feet over a densely populated area of Greenfield when a green laser beam targeted the aircraft. Over an eight-minute period, the aircraft was hit about ten times by the beam. The majority hit the outside of the helicopter though a video recording showed the interior illuminated for a couple of seconds.

Wales laser attack
A frame from the helicopter video of the attack. The complete video can be seen
here.

While the helicopter maneuvered to avoid the laser, the missing-person search was not abandoned. No emergency or evasive action was taken, and the captain was in full control throughout the incident. However, the attack distracted the crew, caused distress and wasted search time and resources, according to the prosecutor.

The three-man crew identified the source location and directed ground officers to the home of Kevin Mark Griffiths. He pretended to be asleep and later produced the laser from a bedroom. He told police he had purchased the laser while on vacation in Spain.

Griffiths said it was a “foolish, impulsive and reckless action,” aiming at what he knew was a police helicopter.

At trial Griffiths admitted a charge of recklessly endangering an aircraft or persons inside. He was given a five-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work, and was fined £165 in costs.

From the Daily Post (with video) and Wales Online

US: UPDATED - Florida teen sorry he aimed laser at police helicopter

A Florida teenager did not realize the hazard, when he used a green laser pointer to track a Volusia County sheriff’s helicopter less than an hour into the new year on January 1 2014.

Police said that 18-year-old Andrew Decker hit the Air One helicopter at least four times. Ground officers arrested Decker, a college student, with the laser still in his hand.

Andrew Decker laser
Andrew Decker

In a statement emailed to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Decker said he was sorry and did not realize that what he was doing was dangerous. He said a neighbor tried to warn him it was a crime but he did not hear the man due to New Year’s celebratory firecrackers going off in his neighborhood of Holly Hill, a few miles north of Daytona Beach.

Decker wrote, “I just got that new laser and wanted to see how far the light would go. I would never do anything to hurt anyone. I just want to tell the helicopter pilot how sorry I am.”

His mother, a News-Journal employee, told the paper “I think it’s pretty clear he didn’t understand the severity of the situation.”

From the Daytona Beach News-Journal

UPDATED February 11 2014: Decker’s lawyer, David Damore, negotiated a pretrial intervention deal with prosecutors. Decker will pay a fine, do community service, and apologize in writing to the helicopter pilot. Upon completion of these actions, the charges will be dismissed. Damore said “Andrew is a good kid. This young man had no idea what he was doing and just wanted to see how far the light would go.” From the Daytona Beach News-Journal

US: UPDATED - Two Calif. residents convicted of aiming a laser pointer at a police helicopter

A jury found two residents of Clovis, California guilty on December 20 2013 of aiming a laser pointer at a Fresno Police helicopter. In addition, one of the pair, 25-year-old Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, was also found guilty of attempting to interfere with the helicopter.

One night in the summer of 2012, an emergency transport helicopter from the Children’s Hospital of Central California reported being illuminated by laser beams. The police helicopter was sent to investigate. They too were struck. Rodriguez and Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, were located and arrested.

During the three-day December 2013 trial, pilots from both helicopters said that the laser strikes caused significant visual interference. Evidence presented indicated that the laser was “13 times more powerful than the permissible power emission level for hand-held laser devices.”

Sentencing was scheduled for March 10 2014. The interference charge has a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The aiming charges each have a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Clovis and Fresno Police Departments, Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Assistant United States Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Michael G. Tierney prosecuted the case.

From KERO ABC. LaserPointerSafety.com previously covered the March 2013 indictment. The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California is here.

UPDATED March 10 2014: Rodriguez was sentenced to 14 years in prison, on the charge of interfering with an aircrew. Coleman will be sentenced May 12 2014 and could receive up to five years on the aiming charge.

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: Assuming the article meant the laser was 13 times more powerful than the permissible power emission level for laser pointers, then the laser would have been 65 milliwatts. (The maximum for lasers marketed as “pointers” in the U.S. is 4.99 mW; there is no maximum for hand-held laser devices which are not marketed as pointers.) For a standard divergence of 1 milliradian, a 65 mW laser has the following hazard distances: It can be a nominal eye hazard up to 190 feet from the laser, causes flashblindness up to 890 feet away, causes interfering glare up to 4,000 feet away, and is a distraction up to 39,600 feet (7.5 miles) away.

UK: Barrister expelled for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 27-year-old man was expelled as a barrister, for offences that included pointing a laser pen at a West Midlands Police helicopter in August 2011.

Mohammed Arif Riaz pleaded guilty to aiming at the aircraft. In June 2013 he was sentenced to eight months in prison, in Birmingham Crown Court.

The Bar Standards Board, acting on November 13 2013, also found Riaz had failed to declare criminal convictions that occurred in 2004. The Board said he acted with “astonishing recklessness” and “conduct discreditable to a barrister.”

From the Express and Star

US: 45 days for "bored" Ohio man who lased police helicopter

A 27-year-old man was sentenced to 45 days in Franklin County (Ohio) jail and 18 months probation on November 7 2013, for aiming a blue laser beam at a Columbus police helicopter.

Michael Rademacher, a traveling maintenance man, had purchased the blue laser and used it to etch his initials on his work tools. On the night of March 21 2013, he was bored and decided to aim it at the police helicopter. One pilot said it was the brightest he had seen pointed at him. After regaining their bearings, the pilots identified the source of the beam and notified ground officers. Rademacher initially said he was not involved but he confessed after officers armed with a search warrant found his laser.

In September 2013, Rademacher pleaded guilty to one felony count of possession of criminal tools. As part of the plea bargain, the more serious charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft was dropped.

If Rademacher violates probation, he will be imprisoned for 12 months. Rademacher also lost his job as a maintenance man due to his arrest and plea.

From the Columbus Dispatch

Ireland: Belfast man's laser could have caused "catastrophic and fatal" helicopter crash at 2011 MTV European Music Awards, judge rules

A Crown Court judge sentenced a 28-year-old Belfast man to eight-months in jail, suspended for two years, for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter as it flew over the site of the MTV European Music Awards on November 6 2011.

The helicopter had been patrolling the crowd outside Odyssey Arena when Aaron McCrory aimed his laser pen at the aircraft. According to the prosecutor, McCrory had targeted the helicopter on several occasions. When questioned, McCrory first blamed children for aiming the laser, then admitted he had done it but handed over a different laser from the one used to hit the aircraft.

McCrory’s defense lawyer said the act was not done deliberately or out of animosity, but he was “messing about and that was reckless.”

At sentencing on October 7 2013, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said McCrory was “foolish and unthinking…. If the pilot had been blinded, even momentarily, the result for all onboard could have been catastrophic and fatal, and given where the aircraft was, the consequences for those on the ground, you must appreciate, could have been unimaginable in its severity.”

Performers inside the Odyssey Arena included Coldplay, LMFAO, Bruno Mars, Jessie J, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, Snow Patrol, Justin Bieber, David Guetta, Adam Lambert, and Queen.

From UTV

US: UPDATED - 18 months in prison for Texas man who lased helicopter

On September 25 2013, Magarito Tristan III was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus an additional two years of supervised release following his term, for aiming a laser pointer at a Customs and Border Patrol helicopter. The 28-year-old from Donna, Texas, had previously pleaded guilty in July 2013 to one felony count of aiming a laser at an aircraft. He has been in custody since the March 7 2013 incident.

The helicopter had been conducting a training exercise. The laser light went in the pilots’ eyes and disoriented them. Pilot Bryan Minnear thought he was under attack. In a statement to the court, he wrote: “My first thought was that we would soon hear and feel the impact of bullets hitting the helicopter. At our altitude we had no way of knowing it was a laser pointer, not a weapon…. Why someone would choose to target any aircraft, much less one performing critical work for the public is beyond my understanding.”

From The Monitor. An press release about the sentence, issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas on September 25 2013, is here. The original LaserPointerSafety.com report of the March 7 2013 incident is here.

US: UPDATED - Jail and probation for Kentucky man who pointed laser gunsight at police helicopter

Steven French, 50, pleaded guilty on September 4 2013 to second-degree wanton endangerment. On August 24 2013, while working as a security guard, French aimed a green laser attached to his 9mm pistol at a police helicopter. He had told police he did this because he was bored and pointed the laser on his gun at the helicopter to test its range. The laser’s light hit the cockpit three times.

The Lexington, Kentucky man was sentenced to 12 months in jail; 30 days will be served while the remaining 11 months will be probated for two years. He is also required to complete 100 hours of community service, and to forfeit his gun and laser.

French avoided federal criminal prosecution (with a potential penalty of up to 5 years in prison and up to $250,000 fine) by pleading guilty in state court. He still may face civil fines imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

From Lex18.com and Kentucky.com. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story of his August 13 2013 arrest is here.

UK: £250 fine for aiming laser pen at helicopter with police on board

On September 5 2013, a 25-year-old Ryhope man was fined £250 (USD $390) for aiming a laser pen at a helicopter being flown for Northumbria Police. Gavin Brace had pleaded guilty to directing or shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot.

Brace told police he wanted to see how far the laser pen could reach, and that he did not realize the effect it would have on the pilot. In sentencing Brace, the judge said: "I regret that the offense you are charged with can only be punished with a fine, many people will feel that is inadequate."
Read More...

Australia: $10,000 fine after Woodvale man aims laser at police helicopter

Christopher Manning, 40, was fined AUS $10,000 (USD $9,140) on September 4 2013, for causing fear with a laser or light.

On August 3 2013, a police helicopter was conducting a search in the Perth suburb of Woodvale when it was hit a number of times by a bright green laser light. The pilot had “immediate distress” and took evasive action. Ground officers arrested Manning at his home in Woodvale, and seized the laser. He was later found guilty in Joondalup magistrates court.

From WAtoday.com.au: Original Aug 3 incident; Sept 5 fine

UK: Couple found in bed, having aimed laser beam at search helicopter, then hiding laser pen under a mattress

A police helicopter was searching Hebburn (in Tyne and Wear) on May 8 2013 for a missing 11-year-old boy, when the cockpit filled with green laser light. The crew was startled and the pilot changed course. The beam was traced to a home in Hebburn. In a back bedroom, ground officers found two persons on a bed, 18-year-old Victoria Rayner and her 25-year-old boyfriend Robert Gilbert. Both denied having a laser pen. After a struggle during the arrest, officers found the laser pen under the mattress.

On August 27 2013, they both pleaded guilty to shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle the pilot. Additionally, Gilbert pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. There is no prison term available for the offenses, only fines. They were fined a total of £305 (USD $473): a fine of £100 each, court costs of £85, and a victim surcharge of £20.
Read More...

US: 30 months for Dallas man who lased helicopter "to see how far it would go"

Kenneth Santodomingo was sentenced July 25 2013 to 30 months in federal prison, for the January 28 2013 lasing of a helicopter.

A green laser beam was aimed at Dallas Police Department’s Air One at least four times over 10 minutes. The beam led back to Santodomingo’s house, where ground officers arrested him. The 22-year-old admitted to aiming at the helicopter, saying he wanted to see how far it would go.

“This young man’s conduct was extraordinarily dangerous and could have had disastrous consequences, which was reflected in the court’s sentence today,” said U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldana in a news release.

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and DallasNews. A video of the incident is available here. LaserPointerSafety.com’s original account of Santodomingo’s February 28 2013 guilty plea is here.

US: Omaha man sentenced to two years for aiming laser at aircraft and helicopter

Michael A. Smith of Omaha was sentenced July 22 2013 to two years in federal prison to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release.. He was the first person in Nebraska indicted under the February 14 2012 federal law which made it illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft.

The sentencing came a little over one year after the July 11 2012 lasings in which Smith -- 29 at the time -- aimed a red laser pointer at a Southwest Airlines aircraft, and subsequently six or seven times at an Omaha police department helicopter that was trying to find the perpetrator. The conviction and sentence appear to be for the helicopter incident only.

In addition, Omaha.com reported that Smith had previously been fined $9,000 by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

For the July 11 2012 incident, he could have received a five-year sentence and a fine of up to $250,000.

More information is in our stories on the original search for Smith and on his April 24 2013 conviction.

From KETV, WOWT News and Omaha.com. Thanks to Jack Dunn, Greg Makhov and John Neff for bringing this to our attention.

Australia: Suspended sentence for man who lased helicopter 30 times

A man from Ormeau, Queensland, on May 9 2013 was given a three-month suspended jail sentence with a three-year good behavior bond, after being convicted of threatening the safety of persons on board an aircraft.

On December 28 2012, two commercial aircraft reported being illuminated by laser beams. They notified police, who sent a helicopter to investigate. A laser beam was aimed at the helicopter up to 30 times over a five minute period. The beam was traced to the Ormeau home of Jason Gavin, 38. The laser was found, hidden, during a search. It was confiscated by police. (Gavin later was convicted of a lesser charge of possessing a restricted item.)

Gavin pleaded guilty to the charge of threatening safety. During sentencing the judge said the plea showed that Gavin had taken personal responsibility for his actions. But past charges of careless driving and minor criminal activity also showed “you have a history that shows in the past you’ve put people at risk,” the judge said. “I don’t think you need to be a person that understands E=mc2 to understand the risk of pointing a laser at aircraft.”

From SkyNews

US: UPDATED - Omaha man convicted of July 2012 airliner, helicopter lasing

30-year-old Michael A. Smith of Omaha, Nebraska was convicted April 24 2013 in federal court, for multiple instances of aiming a laser pointer at an airliner and a police helicopter. He will be in jail until his sentencing, scheduled for July 22 2013. Smith could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

2012-07-16 Omaha laser pointer evidence 300w

A police evidence technician displays the laser pointer that was confiscated. The Omaha World-Herald reported that the laser emits red light.


On July 11 2012, a Southwest Airlines pilot was lased as he came in for a landing in Omaha. Subsequently, an Omaha Police Department helicopter was also lased six or seven times, with the pilot reporting being temporarily blinded. Smith was arrested in his backyard by a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy.

From KETV and Omaha.com. LaserPointerSafety.com originally reported on this in July 2012, when police had not yet arrested Smith. The photo above is from that story.

UPDATED July 22 2013: Michael Smith was sentenced to two years in federal prison to be followed by a 3-year term of supervised release. He was the first person in Nebraska indicted under the February 14 2012 federal law which made it illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft. From KETV and WOWT News.

US: UPDATED - 2 years probation in May 2012 St. Louis helicopter lasing

A St. Louis area man was sentenced on April 11 2013 to two year’s probation, two months home confinement and 40 hours of community service.

On May 18 2012, Michael Brandon Smith, then 35 years old, aimed a green laser beam at a St. Louis Metro Air Support helicopter that was investigating a burglary. The beam illuminated the cockpit several times. The vision of the pilot and observer was affected; the observer later said he had short-term vision problems. Ground units arrested Smith -- still with the laser in his hand -- at his residence in O’Fallon, Missouri. The incident diverted the helicopter from the burglary investigation.

Smith pleaded guilty in federal court in November 2012 to one felony count of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft.

From STLtoday.com and The Republic. The story was originally briefly reported in LaserPointerSafety.com.

UK: Middlesbrough man "defiant" after suspended jail term for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A Middlesbrough man who lased a Cleveland Police helicopter appeared "defiant", according to the Daily Star, after he received a six-month suspended sentence. Jack Waistle, 21, had pleaded guilty to a charge of endangering an aircraft. He had pointed a laser pen at the helicopter, forcing the pilot to change direction to avoid the bright light.

During the April 10 2013 court hearing, Waistle was said to be “very scared about what could happen to him”. Recorder Graham Cook said “You are right to be scared, you could easily be going behind that door” meaning jail. Instead, Waistle received a six-month suspended sentence plus 150 hours of unpaid work.

Pic 2013-04-11 at 12.47.37 AM


Leaving the courtroom, Waistle put two fingers up (photo above) which the Daily Star’s headline called “defiant”.

From the Daily Star

US: Philadelphia man jailed 3 months for July 2012 lasing of news helicopter

Daniel Dangler, 30, of Philadelphia was sentenced to three months in jail plus seven months home confinement and three years supervised release, for aiming a green laser at a news media helicopter. This sentence was handed down as a result of the February 14 2012 federal legislation making it illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft or its flight path.

Pic 2013-04-11 at 12.06.30 AM
A photo shows the beam aimed by Daniel Dangler


On July 18 2012, a photographer in the helicopter saw the cockpit light up with a green light. He told the pilot not to look towards the beam. The beam location was identified and police officers on the ground questioned Dangler. According to prosecutors, Dangler said he didn’t realize the beam would harm anyone or that it was a crime.

He pleaded guilty on October 17 2012 and was sentenced April 10 2013.

The FAA has a separate civil case pending which could result in a fine of up to $11,000.

Philly.com reported that Dangler is “an unemployed high-school dropout with convictions for burglary, driving under the influence and marijuana possession.” The news source also quoted the photographer, Alasdair Nugent, as saying “It is almost the same as pointing a gun at a person.”

From MyFoxPhilly.com, Philly.com, Philly.com more detailed story, and CBSlocal.com. Note: MyFoxPhilly identified the helicopter as “SkyFOX”, Philly.com called it “Fox29” while CBSlocal identified it as “Chopper 3 HD”. From news coverage, it appears to be the same helicopter.

For the text of the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release, click the “Read More…” link.

Read More...

US: UPDATED - 30 month sentence for California teen Adam Gardenhire

Adam Gardenhire, 19, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison on March 25 2013, for aiming a “commercial grade” green laser pointer at an airplane and a police helicopter in California. The crime has a maximum prison term of up to five years. Federal sentencing guidelines recommended an 18-24 month penalty, but U.S. DIstrict Judge Stephen Wilson said he wanted to send a message that Gardenhire’s behavior was “reckless and very dangerous.”

As of March 25, Gardenhire remains free on bond pending an appeal hearing in April 2013.

Adam Gardenhire laser
Gardenhire’s photo on Facebook, according to the blog LA Weekly.com


On March 29 2012, the North Hollywood teenager aimed a laser beam from his backyard at a Cessna that was landing at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. The pilot had vision problems lasting about a day, after being lased multiple times in the eye. The Pasadena Police Department sent a helicopter to investigate. Gardenhire again aimed at the craft, hitting the pilot six times. The pilot had protective equipment and was not injured.

Pic 2012-04-02 at 9.41.32 AM
Gardenhire lased the aircraft from his backyard (A) about 1.5 miles from the airport (black square).


According to his attorney, Gardenhire was unaware of the hazard: “[He] had no idea that the deceptively ordinary laser he had borrowed from a friend was powerful enough to be seen by, much less distract, a pilot thousands of feet away…. [A] severe sentence would be disproportionate to the conduct.”

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Mills said Gardenhire told FBI agents that the friend who loaned him the laser told him not to shine it at anyone’s eyes because it would blind people. She said Gardenhire telling the FBI he didn't think about the dangers doesn't mean he wasn't aware of the dangers and responsible for the consequences.

"One can imagine a drunk driver making the same excuse - that he just 'didn't think about the dangers' of getting behind the wheel in an impaired state. But disregarding a clear risk does not absolve one of responsibility for assuming it," Mills said, according to the Pasadena Star-News.

Gardenhire was arrested in April 2012. He was the second person indicted under the Feb. 2012 federal law making it illegal to aim at an aircraft or the flight path of an aircraft. (The first person was Orlando resident Glenn Stephen Hansen.) He and pleaded guilty in October 2012. He could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison under the federal law. U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson said in court that he sentenced Gardenhire to 30 months so as to send a message to other people.

From CNN, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Daily News, Wired and Burbank Leader. LaserPointerSafety.com previously covered this story in March 2012 when the initial incident was reported, and in April 2012 when Gardenhire was indicted.

UK: Man fined £615 for disrupting police burglary call

A 35-year-old Reedswood man was fined £615 on November 12 2012, for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter in Walsall, on July 21 2012. The helicopter was investigating a burglary when the laser light illuminated the cockpit for several seconds. The pilot moved the craft to avoid the beam. The incident was captured on video.

Ian Collins pleaded guilty to “shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot”. He paid a £400 fine plus £200 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

From the Express & Star

New Zealand: UPDATED - 19 & 21 year olds found guilty of lasing police helicopter

Two New Zealand men were found guilty on November 10 2012 of “causing unnecessary danger to an aircraft” in a May 2011 lasing of a police helicopter. Joshua O’Hare-Knight, 21 and James Spiers, 19, face up to 12 months in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for February 2013.

A video taken from the police helicopter, showing the laser beams, is here.

James Spiers Joshua OHare Knight laser
James Spiers and Joshua O’Hare-Knight


From the New Zealand Herald and Stuff.co.nz. Thanks to Mark Wardle of NZALPA for bringing the video to our attention. This is an updated story; the original LaserPointerSafety.com news item from May 2011 is here.


Australia: $20,000 fine for Perth-area couple who aimed laser at police helicopter

A couple from the Perth suburb of Port Kennedy were fined AUS $10,000 each on October 25 2012, for lasing a Rockingham Police helicopter. The two were charged with causing fear with an object or substance to people in conveyances or others.

On July 20 2012, the Polair 61 helicopter was patrolling when it was hit by the laser beam. The pilot took evasive action. The crew was able to identify the source. Ground crews arrested 29-year-old Patricia Giguere and 31-year-old Clemens Trauttmansdorff. They first denied having a laser, then eventually surrendered to police.

Patricia Giguere laser
Patricia Giguere demonstrates how she aimed the laser from her porch


In an interview, Giguere said she and Trauttmansdorff had bought the laser in Bali. They did not think the beam could reach the helicopter. Giguere was in Australia on a partner provisional visa. She said the conviction could jeopardize her chances of staying in the country.

News reports gave conflicting information on the frequency of laser incidents in the area. A Police Air Wing pilot said “laser attacks took place at least twice a week, and sometimes up to five times a night.” However, the Rockingham Police officer-in-charge said laser incidents “don’t happen very often.”

From the West Australian and InMyCommunity.com

Northern Ireland: 6-month suspended sentence for east Belfast man

A 26-year-old old man from east Belfast was given a 6-month suspended jail sentence in late October 2012, for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter on August 17 2010. Michael Jackson pleaded guilty to endangering the safety of an aircraft. His sentence was suspended because he is a full-time caregiver for his mother-in-law.

The judge warned that “those who target aircraft in this dangerous and reckless way should expect to go to prison.”

Jackson’s lawyer said the laser was aimed at the helicopter for a total of 37 seconds, in flashes lasting 1-2 seconds each, over a 17-minute period.

According to the prosecutor, pilots are required to have an eye test after a laser incident, before being cleared to fly again. Jackson was ordered to pay £30 to cover the cost of the pilot’s eye test.

From 4NI.co.uk

New Zealand: Teen sentenced to home detention

A south Auckland teenager was sentenced on September 21 2012 to 4-1/2 months home detention, for illuminating three aircraft and a police helicopter with a laser.

On January 26 2012, 19-year-old Pravikash Chandra aimed a green laser pointer, bought at a local store, at three commercial aircraft that were on final approach to Auckland Airport. A police helicopter was sent to investigate and was also hit by Chandra. The judge in the case said that “the lives of over 600 people were put at risk.”

Chandra pleaded guilty to four charges of endangering aircraft under the New Zealand Civil Aviation Act. He could have received one year in jail on each charge. While the judge felt that imprisonment was warranted in order to send a message, he instead gave Chandra a 4-1/2 month home detention sentence. In addition, the laser was ordered destroyed and Chandra was required to take any courses mandated by his probation officer.

Chandra said he did not know of the hazards: “I didn’t try to act like a smart ass, I just didn’t know.” His lawyer said the teen apologized to the pilots and said that what he did was “reckless and foolish behavior.”

From the New Zealand Herald. See a related story, where the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association called for Australian-style restrictions on laser pointer sales and possession.

UK: 200 hours of community work for South Yorkshire man

A 27-year-old man from Sheffield was sentenced in August 2012 to 200 hours of unpaid community service, and was ordered to pay £85 in court costs, for shining a laser at South Yorkshire’s police helicopter. Neil Shackleton aimed the laser from his bedroom window to the helicopter as it flew two miles away. On-board cameras helped determine the laser’s location, and ground units arrested Shackleton.

Neil Shackleton laser
Neil Shackleton


Police said the action could have caused the helicopter to crash.

Two other cases that happened at about the same time are still in court.

From The Star (and a more detailed, earlier version from The Star)

US: Phoenix man gets 90 days in jail for lasing three aircraft

A Phoenix man who bought a laser at a yard sale, and wanted to see how far it could go, was sentenced August 8 2012 for aiming at two commercial aircraft and a police helicopter. Michael Andrew Cerise, 47, will spend 90 days in jail, followed by three years of supervised probation.

Michael Cerise laser
90 days in jail for Michael Cerise


The lasings happened on November 9 2011. A U.S. Airways flight carrying about 200 passengers altered its course by 90 degrees during final approach, to avoid the laser. A Frontier Airlines flight carrying about 130 passengers was also illuminated. A Phoenix Police Department helicopter sent to investigate was hit as well.

Cerise was found at his home with a laser hidden in his couch cushions. At first he said he had not pointed lasers at the sky, but in a later interview said he had aimed it upwards to test its distance capabilities.

Three pilots had temporary partial blindness due to the laser light. Authorities said there had been similar incidents in the area for eight months prior to Cerise’s arrest.

From CBS5, AZCentral.com and East Valley Tribune.

UK: 6 month sentence for Weston man

Alexander Nicholls of Weston-super-Mare in Avon, Somerset, was sentenced to six months in prison on July 16 2012, for aiming a blue laser pen at a police helicopter. At about 2 am on May 12 2012, 23-year-old Nicholls was trying to find aircraft when he spotted the helicopter. He illuminated it for about six minutes, according to the prosecutor. The beam hit one of the pilot’s eyes, although no injury was mentioned in news reports. The helicopter crew helped lead ground officers to Nicholls’ house, where the pen was found hidden in a cupboard.

Nicholls’ attorney said he did not mean to intentionally endanger the aircraft. He pleaded guilty to one count of recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or people in an aircraft.

Alexander Nicholls laser
Six month sentence for Alexander Nicholls


The six month sentence was intended as a “deterrent” because “the result could well have been catastrophic,” according to the chair of the bench.

Statistics show that from January through mid-July 2012, there were 31 reported laser incidents in Avon and Somerset, compared with 26 for the same period last year.

From the Weston Mercury

Canada: Calgary man gets house arrest in 2010 helicopter lasing case

A Calgary man was sentenced on June 18 2012 to two months house arrest, four months with a 10 pm to 5 am curfew and six months of probation, all resulting from an 2010 laser illumination of a Calgary police helicopter. In addition, Jason John McConnell, 35, will perform 25 hours of community service, will receive counseling, and is not permitted to possess a laser pointer. Read More...

UK: £465 fine for 12-minute lasing of police helicopter

On February 11 2012, a police helicopter was flashed with a laser pen over a 12-minute period. The pilots “became completely dazzled” and broke off their search for a burglary suspect to deal with Lukasz Tetich, 28, who was quickly arrested in Croydon, a suburb 10 miles south of London.

At a hearing on June 11 2012, Tetich was fined £465 and his laser pen was ordered to be destroyed.

Lukasz Tetich, laser
Lukasz Tetich


From This Is Croydon Today

US: Orlando man who lased 23+ planes pleads guilty; could get 5 year jail term

Orlando-area resident Glenn Stephen Hansen pleaded guilty on May 16 2012 to aiming a laser beam at an aircraft. He had been accused of lasing aircraft taking off from Orlando International Airport (OIA) at least 23 times. However, under terms of his Plea Agreement, Hansen will be charged with just one count of knowingly aiming the beam of a laser at an aircraft. In return, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will not charge Hansen with any of the other 22 potential federal criminal offenses.

Hansen could receive up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In addition, he “agrees to make full restitution to the affected airline companies.” He may not face the maximum, since the U.S. agreed to downward adjustments in the sentencing guidelines in return for Hanson accepting responsibility for his actions.

As of May 16 Hansen has not been sentenced.

The Plea Agreement states that Hansen “temporarily blinded or distracted the pilots of commercial passenger airliners during a critical phase of flight as those aircraft took off from OIA…. On some occasions, the laser beam … caused pilots to lose their night vision and, on at least one occasion, resulted in a pilot’s removal from duty for medical examinations and to recover from temporary vision problems.”

When arrested on March 24 2012, Hansen told FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He said that “he did not know that the laser would harm the pilots or affect the aircraft.”

LaserPointerSafety.com’s original story on the March 24 arrest is here. The full text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).
Read More...

Northern Ireland: £750 fine for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 28-year-old Dungiven man, Jagpal Irwin, was fined £750 for aiming a laser at a police helicopter on January 30 2012. The pilot said the laser beam was “intensely dazzling”.

Irwin’s barrister said the incident, which was deliberate targeting of the aircraft, occurred due to “sheer stupidity and ignorance”. During his arrest, Irwin told the police he did not know that it was illegal to aim at aircraft.

During the trial, the judge noted that Irwin was “lucky to have escaped jail”. Due to how the charges were brought, Irwin did not face a jail term or a custodial sentence.

From Highland Radio and BBC News Foyle & West

Canada: 15 hours community service for March 2011 Winnipeg lasing

Sheldon Friesen, 27, pleaded guilty on April 30 2012 to directing a bright light at an aircraft. He had lased a police helicopter three times on March 10 2011 with a laser pointer he purchased for 99 cents on eBay.

He was sentenced to 15 hours community service work. He had faced a maximum penalty of CDN $100,000 and up to five years in prison.

Friesen told the court he was testing the range of the laser and did not realize that aiming at a helicopter could be dangerous. The judge agreed, saying “You do seem like you were genuinely surprised by the consequences of your actions.”

From the Winnipeg Sun. The original March 2011 story in LaserPointerSafety.com is here.

Canada: UPDATED - Police helicopter forced to land after repeated Class 3A laser attacks

A Durham Regional Police helicopter was forced to land after being repeatedly illuminated by a laser, later determined to be Class 3A (maximum power less than 5 milliwatts). The maximum power allowed to be sold as a pointer in Canada is Class 3A.

The April 21 2012 incident happened in Uxbridge, 75 km northeast of Toronto. It was looking for vandals when struck by a laser numerous times over several minutes. The helicopter set down at a nearby police station, and the pilot was taken to a hospital. He was released with no apparent damage, but a police spokesperson said it could take several days for damage to emerge.

20-year-old Melissa Perry of Uxbridge was arrested, and charged with lessening the ability of a crew member to perform duties, interfering with the duties of a crew member, projecting a bright light at an aircraft, mischief endangering life, assault with a weapon and common nuisance. It is unclear from news reports whether Perry was associated with the vandals.

From DurhamRegion.com, Global Toronto and Canada.com

Analysis from LaserPointerSafety.com: If the laser is really Class 3A (less than 5 mW maximum power), the pilot’s eyes were unharmed. The Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance for a 5 mW laser with a tight 1 milliradian beam is 52 feet. This means that laser safety experts have concluded that no eye injury could occur past 52 feet. If the pilot was airborne, his eyes were likely much farther than 52 feet from the laser. (Global Toronto reported the helicopter was at 5000 feet, but that is very high for vandal surveillance; 500 feet is more reasonable.)
Plus, as explained on the Laser Safety Calculations page, there are additional factors that go into the NOHD. The result of these factors is that a 5 mW laser would have to be within 16.4 feet of a person’s eyes before there was a 50/50 chance of causing a minimally detectable eye injury. This is not opinion; this is scientific fact based on how the NOHD is derived.

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 2012: On September 21 2012, Perry pleaded guilty to one charge of violating the Aviation Act by shining a bright light at an aircraft. She was fined $500. All other charges were dropped by the Crown. From DurhamRegion.com.

Scotland: Glasgow man jailed for 9 months, for disrupting helicopter search

A 22-year-old Glasgow man was sentenced on April 19 2012 to nine months in jail for deliberately lasing a Strathclyde police helicopter on September 12 2009.

Christopher Paton repeatedly aimed a 40 milliwatt green laser at the aircraft, over a period of about 10 minutes. The light dazzled the pilot and crew, and the flight path was adjusted. The laser was recorded by an on-board camera, enabling Paton’s house in Castlemilk to be pinpointed. The helicopter had been was searching for two lost 4-year-olds in Toryglen. After the search was completed, ground officers were notified. They found Paton in his back garden, where he admitted using the laser and was arrested.

From BBC News

UK: Six months of treatment ordered for drunken Derbyshire man

A 23-year-old man was sentenced on March 5 2012 to six months in jail, suspended for two years, and was ordered to have six months of treatment for drinking problems, after pleading guilty to shining a green laser pen on a Derbyshire police helicopter in a January 2 2012 incident.

Ricky Kemp of Shirebrook caused a “minor irritation” to the pilot, the first time Kemp lased the helicopter. The pilot continued to an incident, but then was lased again by Kemp while returning to police headquarters. The pilot was able to identify Kemp’s location, and directed ground units who made an arrest.

Kemp pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering an aircraft and the people inside.

From This is Derbyshire

Australia: New Year's Eve laser draws no jail term for Taiwan tourist

On December 31 2011, a tourist from Taiwan aimed a laser pointer at a police helicopter hovering over Bradfield Park in Sydney. The beam illuminated the aircraft four times, in bursts of 3-5 seconds each. The pilot was lased directly in the face. Yu-Wei Chang, 27, was arrested by ground units. He pleaded guilty in January.

At his sentencing on February 28 2012, Chang said, “I didn't do that deliberately, it was totally reckless behavior and I didn't realize the serious consequences at all.” He had previously used a laser pointer in his work in Taiwan as a tour guide. The judge agreed the act was not malicious but said it was “extremely dangerous” and Chang had to receive a prison sentence. The judge referred to four similar Australian court cases. She said three offenders were given jail terms and two received suspended sentences.

On a charge of threatening safety of an aircraft, Chang was sentenced to three months in prison, suspended on condition of paying AUD $200 and entering into a 12-month good behavior bond. On a charge of pointing a laser in public, Chang received four months prison; this was also suspended. He was also ordered to pay court costs; the amount was not specified in news articles.

Chang said he expects to leave Australia in April. He said he was grateful for the suspended sentence, thanking the judge and the Australian government.

From The Australian and the Daily Telegraph. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story is here.

UK: 2 Bedford teens sentenced in lasing of helicopter

Two Bedford-area teenagers were given a 12-month referral order for a November 12 2011 incident in which they aimed a green laser pen at a police helicopter “to see how far it would reach.” The pilot partially lost his vision during the incident, which caused the flight to break off from its patrol mission. Ground officers arrested a 13- and a 17-year-old.

The prosecutor said if tried as adults, the two could have served a 1-year sentence. In addition to the 12-month referral, the youths were told to write an apology letter to the pilot, were fined £85 in court costs, and had their laser pen destroyed.

From Bedfordshire On Sunday

UK: Four month sentence for teen who flashblinded a helicopter pilot

An 18-year-old pleaded guilty on January 12 2012 to willful obstruction of a police helicopter pilot in the execution of his duty, and of recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft. On February 10 2012 the teenager was sentenced to a four month detention and training order. This was reduced from six months due to the guilty plea.

On September 27 2011, a police helicopter was searching for suspects when a laser pen was aimed at it for about 10 minutes. The pilot was flashblinded and suspended the search while he recovered. The pilot was able to identify a suspect. Dean Riley, of Cator Cresent, New Addington in the London Borough of Croydon was arrested by ground officers. He initially said he was not involved. The top of the laser pen was found in his pocket.

Dean Riley laser
Four months for aiming a laser at a helicopter


During sentencing, Riley’s lawyer described him as “extremely remorseful and regretful” and said Riley wanted to apologize. The judge said the pilot “could have crashed and caused untold damage and injury. The court takes offenses of this nature extremely seriously.”

From the Croydon Guardian

US: UPDATED - Clark Gable's grandson final sentence: 10 days in jail, 3 years probation

Clark Gable III, grandson of the famed actor, was officially sentenced on January 12 2012 to 10 days in jail plus three years probation. He received one day’s credit for time already served.

He pleaded guilty on December 8 2011 for aiming a green laser pointer three times at a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter in July. Gable had been expected to receive 200 hours on a work crew, in addition to the jail time. The TMZ.com report did not mention the 200 hours.

From TMZ.com and the Los Angeles Times. LaserPointerSafety.com has additional stories about Gable’s July 28 2011 lasing incident, his August 26 arraignment and his December 8 guilty plea.

US: Time served - 7 months - for Bakersfield CA man

A Bakersfield (CA) man was sentenced to time served, for aiming a green laser at a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Jeffrey Lee Gentry, 33, had been in jail seven months. At his January 9 2012 sentencing he was also ordered to be on probation for one year. Gentry could have received a fine of up to $250,000 and up to 20 years in prison.

During the November 6 2010 incident, the helicopter was flying 500 feet above the ground when hit four times by the laser beam. The pilot said he had spots in his eyes for a few seconds. They were disoriented and were forced off course, according to a March 3 2011 press release from the U.S. District Attorney’s office in Fresno.

From Bakersfield.com, KERN radio and Bakersfield Now

US: UPDATED - Clark Gable's grandson pleads guilty; likely to get 10 days in jail and 200 work hours

Clark James Gable III pleaded guilty December 8 2011 to one felony count of “discharge of a laser at an occupied aircraft.” In exchange for the guilty plea, other charges were dropped that could have put Gable in jail for three years. It is expected that prosecutors will ask for a 10 day jail sentence, plus 200 hours community service on a California Department of Transportation work crew. Gable’s sentencing will take place January 12 2012.

Gable, 23, is the grandson of actor Clark Gable, famed as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind and for appearing in 66 other movies.

On July 28 2011, Gable was a passenger in a car driving through Hollywood when a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter was struck by a green laser beam. The two officers were temporarily blinded, according to police reports. Ground units were directed to the car by the helicopter. They found a laser pointer later measured to be 52 milliwatts. Gable and the driver, 23-year-old Maximilian Anderson, were arrested. Gable told officers that he had been aiming at the Hollywood sign, but missed.

In late July, Gable told reporters the incident was “a misunderstanding” and that he would learn from his mistake. Gable’s manager said “it wasn’t intentional. Nobody knew it was a felony.”

From Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, and AFP. LaserPointerSafety.com has news items on the July 28 arrest, and on the August 26 arraignment.

UPDATE, January 12 2012: Gable was sentenced to 10 days in jail plus three years probation, according to TMZ.com.
.
Read More...

UK: 21-year-old Hertfordshire man given "conditional discharge" after lasing helicopter

A 21-year-old from Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire was found guilty November 29 2011 of endangering an aircraft. Charlie Baker had aimed a laser pen at a police helicopter on November 18 2011.

In St Albans Magistrates Court, he received a conditional discharge of 12 months. If Baker does not commit any other offense in that time period, his conviction will be stricken from the criminal record. Baker also paid court costs of £85, and forfeited his laser pen.

From the
Watford Observer and Wikipedia “Discharge” article, England and Wales section
.

Australia: UPDATED - Video shows Sept. arrest of Hampton Park man given AUD $3500 fine

Video footage taken by a police helicopter helped track and convict Tam Thanh Nguyen, 21, of Cranbourne. On September 3 2011, Nguyen was at a party in Hampton Park. He pointed a green laser, which he had bought on vacation in Malaysia, at the helicopter which was 2 km away. The pilot turned on the video which recorded Nguyen’s second illumination:


The pilot was flashblinded so that he had to fly on instruments only. He called ground officers, and Nguyen was arrested within 30 minutes.

On November 24 2011 Nguyen pleaded guilty to interfering with an aircraft crew member, and to possessing and importing a prohibited weapon into Victoria. Prosecutors asked for a jail term of up to the maximum two years. Nguyen’s lawyer said his client was sorry: “You won’t get more genuine remorse … this was a spontaneous act of stupidity…”. The judge said Nguyen had good character and had not understood the consequences of his actions. He fined Nguyen AUD $2000 and he was ordered to donate another $1500 to charity.

Nguyen’s laser was said to be “60 times more powerful than the allowable limit.” (In Victoria, pointers over 1 mW are banned, so the laser must have been 60 mW.)

From the Herald Sun. The original story of Nguyen’s arrest in September was covered here by LaserPointerSafety.com.

UPDATED February 28 2012: Nguyen lost a February 27 appeal on the charge of interfering with the crew or the aircraft. At the hearing, his lawyer said Nguyen’s drunken actions were “spontaneous and stupid” and he had never intended to deliberately shine the laser into the cockpit. Two character witnesses testified on Nguyen’s behalf. However, the appeals judge was amazed that a “smart, talented and highly regarded person could commit acts with such potential for disaster.” The judge noted there were “unthinkable consequences” from the September 3 2011 lasing, and he was therefore obligated to convict Nguyen due to the seriousness of the incident. From The Age.
.

UK: Teens given 4-month sentence in north Hull laser attack

Two teenagers were sentenced to four months in jail for a “stupid [and] extremely dangerous” lasing of a police helicopter over north Hull.

Benjamin Ireland laser
Benjamin Ireland; four months in jail

Benjamin Ireland and Ryan Whybrow, both 19 years old, looked stunned as the judge sent them to young offenders’ institutes.

The two were at a party and were drinking when they decided to point green laser pens at a police helicopter “for a laugh”. The pilot and crew were flashblinded by repeated and continued illumination. The pilot made an emergency landing. Ground units directed to the location arrested Ireland and Whybrow.

The two pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft. At sentencing, the judge said he was sending “a very clear message … to anybody else who is minded to behave in this way.”

From
This Is Hull and East Riding

UK: Teen would not aim his laser at cars due to crash hazard, but felt helicopters were different

A U.K. teenager who told court he did not aim his green laser pen at a car “because it would probably make it crash” was sentenced to five months for instead aiming at a helicopter. According to the prosecutor, 18-year-old Jordan Burnett “did not apply the same logic to the helicopter because it was too far away.”

The incident happened on June 28 2011. An Essex police helicopter was flying over Chattenden when it was illuminated by green laser light in an “accurate and sustained attack.” The pilot lost his night vision and took evasive action. After returning to the scene, the helicopter was hit again. The beam was traced to Burnett’s home in Chattenden. He admitted to ground officers that he aimed at the helicopter. He said he had not believed the beam would reach that far.

Burnett pled guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He was sentenced on October 27 2011. The sentencing judge said Burnett’s actions could have been potentially disastrous and devastating.

From
Kent Online

New Zealand: UPDATED - Laser charges dropped because of "good character"

A New Zealand man had charges of endangering transport dropped because of his “good character” and personal circumstances. James Paul Burton had been arrested for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter in December 2010. He was 19 at the time of his arrest.

His lawyer successfully argued that a conviction put Burton’s career plans at risk, as well as his application for New Zealand residency. The judge agreed, stating that the consequences for Burton outweighed the seriousness of the charges. Charges were dropped on October 25 2011.

From
Auckland Now. LaserPointerSafety.com previously reported on Burton’s case on September 17 2011.

UK: Merseyside man charged in laser pen attack (UPDATE: 4-month sentence)

21-year-old David Checkley of Newton-le-Willows, was charged with recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft by St Helens police. On October 22 2011, a police air support helicopter was lased at about 1200 feet. Cameras in the craft identified Checkley’s house. Ground units found a four-inch long black laser pen. Checkley will face the St Helens Magistrates’ Court in November.

From the St Helens Star

UPDATE November 23 2011: Checkley pleaded guilty to “acting recklessly or negligently in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft”. He was sentenced to four months in jail, and his laser pen was destroyed by police. From the St. Helens Reporter

UK: Teen jailed for 6 months for laser attack on commercial flight

A 19-year-old, whose lawyer said he had learning difficulties and was “immature,” was sentenced on October 20 2011 to six months in jail after pleading guilty to lasing a police helicopter.

On September 11 2011, the West Midlands Air Support helicopter was sent to investigate a report of a commercial flight that had been illuminated by a green laser. The police crew was themselves dazzled by a green laser, aimed from a car on the ground. They directed ground units to the car where Wayne Junior French was sitting. He admitted shining the laser at the helicopter.

The presiding judge in Birmingham Crown Court said French would have had a much longer sentence if convicted of dazzling the commercial flight. He said “I have no doubt at the time you didn’t think through what you were doing but it was a plainly deliberate act.”

French’s lawyer said French “does express genuine remorse and is absolutely terrified about custody. He hasn’t slept properly since he was arrested.”

From the
Birmingham Mail

US: Fort Worth teen given misdemeanor ticket for lasing air ambulance

A CareFlite medical helicopter was lased by a teenager as it took off from a hospital in Fort Worth to return to its base. The pilot was temporarily blinded but was able to hover over the area to direct officers to the laser beam’s location. A teenager was apprehended. He was given a Class C misdemeanor ticket.

From
MyFOXdfw.com

Switzerland: CHF 7,700 fine for aiming laser at Montreaux helicopters

A 37-year-old Swiss man was fined a total of CHF 7,700 (USD $8,620) for an October 2010 illumination of two military helicopters flying near Montreaux. News reports said two crew members were injured by the laser; one went to a hospital for treatment. The injuries were not permanent.

Since the incident, “powerful” lasers have been outlawed in Switzerland, but pilots still report incidents. The Swiss emergency rescue team Rega says lasers have been pointed at their helicopters 16 times from January to October 2011.

From World Radio Switzerland. The original October 2010 story of the arrest and crew injuries is here.

Russia: Aeroflot pilot "barely averted" a crash due to teen aiming laser pointer

The pilot of an Airbus 320 with 128 people on board said he “barely averted a crash” after a laser beam “remained in the cockpit almost until the plane touched down”. The laser attack occurred at 5:49 a.m. local time September 22 2011 in Barnaul, capital of the Russian federal district Altai Krai, in Siberia. The laser was wielded by a 15-year-old boy who could not sleep and aimed a pointer out his window.

The boy told police that he “had not planned to blind the pilot and had only directed the beam at the flashing lights of the airplane.” Police said his parents would be fined 500 rubles (USD $15) for negligence.

The deputy chief of police at the Barnaul airport, Andrey Spiridonov, said that tragedy was avoided by a miracle.

Pic 2011-09-25 at 2.34.43 PM
The laser pointer being displayed by police; the boy’s apartment building, mother and bedroom window. Larger versions are in a
photo gallery at Altapress.ru.

Pic 2011-09-25 at 3.00.54 PM
Barnaul, Altai Krai federation, Siberia

Pic 2011-09-25 at 3.41.08 PM
It is about 4.5 miles from Barnaul Airport (red marker) to the boy’s apartment building (green marker) at 35 Sunny Glades. Click on map for a larger image.

Analysis, news links and additional details are after the jump (click “Read More…” below).

Read More...

UK: Chard man did not think laser would reach helicopter

Marc Webster was lying in bed at 1:45 am on August 30 2011 when he heard a police helicopter over his home in Chard, Somerset. He picked up a laser pen from his window sill -- he usually used it to point at trees and scare birds away -- and aimed it at the helicopter. Webster later told police “he pointed the laser at the helicopter to see if it would reach, but [he] did not think it did.”

Pilot Paul Maddox was unable to continue investigating a car crime, and broke off his mission. He and two other officers were dazzled by the laser light. Webster said he aimed the laser for less than 15 seconds; the officers in the helicopter said it was around five minutes.

On September 22, Webster pleaded guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft. Sentencing is scheduled for October 14.

A news report said Webster, 45, was a drug user: “He said it had been a crazy day after he went out in the morning to score some heroin, but believes he was instead given ketamine, which didn’t treat him well.”

From This Is The West Country

UPDATE October 19 2011: Webster was sentenced to four months in prison suspended for two years, with a two-year supervision order. He avoided jail because he was the sole caregiver for his 16-year-old son.

The sentencing judge said “The message should go out that people tempted to target helicopters in this idiotic and dangerous way should expect a custodial sentence. It’s absurd that these completely pointless toys are used to distract and disable helicopters engaged in the task of serious public good. You’re very lucky that some serious accident didn’t happen as a result of your action. You’re not going to jail by only the thinnest skin of your teeth. I don’t see why your son – in a very difficult family situation – should have that done as a result of your stupidity.” From This Is The West Country.

New Zealand: "Future career is on the line" for 20-year-old who aimed at a police helicopter

A 20-year-old New Zealand man who pleaded guilty to “endangering transport” by lasing an aircraft is asking for leniency because a conviction will affect his employment and travel.

In December 2010, James Paul Burton aimed a laser pointer at a police helicopter. Police said Burton -- 19 at the time -- admitted the act and said he did not realize the effect it would have on the pilot. (The Auckland Now story did not say how the incident affected the pilot or the flight.)

On September 16 2011, Burton’s lawyer told the court the act was done stupidly without thinking, after drinking with friends. She asked that Burton be discharged without conviction due to his age and future career plans. In 2007, Burton had arrived in New Zealand with his mother and sister, and all three are applying for residency. A conviction would affect his residency and his ability to find work and travel overseas. In turn, those restrictions could impact his ability to complete his studies in marine biology.

New Zealand does have a seven-year “clean slate” law, but his lawyer argued that Burton needed to complete his studies, apply for residency and find work before 2018.

From
Auckland Now

UPDATE OCTOBER 27 2011: The judge agreed with Burton’s lawyer, that the consequences for Burton’s career and residency application outweighed the seriousness of his offense. The charges were dropped. More details are in an October 27 story in Auckland Now.

US: Long saga of Frank Newton Anderson appears over: probation and $4000 fine

The long saga of Frank Newton Anderson has ended with one year’s probation and a $4000 fine on a federal charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. Anderson faced up to 20 years in prison for lasing an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter on April 13 2010.

He pleaded guilty in December 2010, and had his judge resign in June 2011 because prosecutors would not reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. The judge called Anderson “an idiot, not a criminal.” A new judge was assigned, and Anderson was sentenced in July 2011, according to an article appearing in the Orlando Sentinel on September 15 2011.

Anderson’s laser case was especially interesting since it paralleled the gunfire case of Jason Dennis McGuire. He was arrested March 21 2010 in Orlando for firing a handgun at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. McGuire was sentenced April 26 2011 to 12 1/2 years in prison.

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

Wales: Six month sentence for misuse of brand-new laser

A 21-year-old from Newport, Wales, was given a six-month sentence in a young offender’s institution for illuminating a police helicopter. Ross McDonnell-Jones had purchased a green laser pen on October 11 2010. The next day, he aimed it at the helicopter, which was at an altitude of 3,000 feet. The pilot “lost his night vision and had to tilt his head away from the light, causing him to lose sight of the instruments and putting the aircraft in momentary danger”, according to the prosecutor. The laser attack lasted about five minutes.

McDonnell-Jones admitted aiming the laser outside but said he did not see the helicopter. The pen was found hidden under a baby’s mattress in the man’s home.

From the
South Wales Argus

UK: North London teen gets 6 month jail sentence

19-year-old Islam Ali was handed a six month jail sentence after pleading guilty to endangering the safety of an aircraft. On March 6 2011 the teen was using a green laser pen outdoors and “wanted to see how far it would go.” He aimed at a police helicopter pilot who was flying an armed response team to a shooting incident. One press account said the pilot was temporarily blinded while another said that at 1,500 feet “the strength of the beam was not sufficient to affect [the pilot’s] vision.”

According to the judge, “this was an extremely serious offence which could have ended in several fatalities” to those on board and on the ground.

From the Daily Express and Willesden & Brent Times

Canada: $5000 fine for aiming at three aircraft

On July 26 2011, a 39-year-old Calgary man was fined CDN $5000 for aiming a “Class 3” green laser pointer at a small plane, a small jet and a traffic helicopter. Chris Saulnier pleaded guilty to the January 5 2011 illuminations. He was identified via video taken from the helicopter and turned over to the police.

His lawyer said Saulnier had an interest in astronomy, and was “not thinking about the consequences, he’s just thinking and wondering whether his beam can hit what he thought was the belly of the airplane.... In hindsight, he knows the seriousness of it and accepts responsibility...”

From the
Calgary Herald

UPDATE July 28 2011: Representatives of the Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada said Saulnier was not a RASC member, and did not represent responsible amateur astronomy. More details are here.

UK: 6 months in jail for "dangerous idiot" laser pen offender

A 23-year-old Newcastle area man was sentenced on July 26 2011 to 6 months in jail for repeatedly aiming a laser pen at a Northumbria Police helicopter around 1 am on June 6. Richard Anthony Oliver was outside his house in South Shields, and admitted the offence. He had purchased the laser pen while on holiday in Turkey, according to his lawyer, and “he accepts that it was a stupid, silly thing to do.”


6 months for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter

The judge called Oliver a “dangerous idiot” for illuminating the helicopter “for a considerable amount of time.”

In addition to the 6-month laser pen sentence, Oliver received another 6 months in jail on an unrelated theft charge.

From the Shields Gazette, Chronicle Live and BBC News. See also the Shields Gazette June 21 2011 story about Oliver’s guilty plea, and LaserPointerSafety.com’s original news item about the June 6 incident.

UK: Birmingham-area man claims dog, not copter, was his target; judge disagrees

A judge rejected the claim that a Small Heath man was trying to attract his dog’s attention when he aimed a green laser pointer at a police helicopter flying over Birmingham. Joshua Bough, 28, had admitted endangering the safety of an aircraft in the March 28 2011 incident, but said it was not deliberate. Bough claimed his puppy had run off and “he used the laser pen to attract the dog’s attention because sometimes it would get lost and confused in the dark.”

Judge John Maxwell said the account was not supported by video footage of the incident. The judge further warned Bough that he should expect a prison sentence.

From the Birmingham Mail

UPDATE August 24 2011: Bough was sentenced to 16 months in jail. Judge Maxwell said the situation was “intolerable” and added “If we are to avoid the terrible consequences that will sooner or later follow if people behave as you did, the court will do what it can to protect the public and punish the offender.” From the Birmingham Mail

UK: 3 month sentence for Newcastle teen

On July 22 2011, 18-year-old David Taylor of Newcastle began a three month sentence in a young offender’s institute, for aiming a green laser pen multiple times at a Northumbria Police helicopter. The pilot was forced to change course during the March 12 2011 incident. Taylor was later convicted of recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft.

A police spokesperson said “I hope this sentence sends out the message to others that this sort of behaviour is not a game or a prank, it’s extremely serious .... they are committing a criminal offence.”

From
Chronicle Live and BBC News

US: Pilot's video & research helps FBI find & convict Chicago-area man

A pilot’s videotaped research helped the FBI find a laser pointer in a door-to-door search, in the Chicago suburb of Brookfield. The pointer’s owner, Jason G. Heeringa was arrested in 2010. On July 12 2011 the 29-year-old pleaded guilty in a plea bargain arrangement to misdemeanor counts of aggravated assault and battery.


Two years probation, $250 fine and 240 hours of community service

Essential to the conviction was a video analysis done by a pilot who had been illuminated multiple times by Heeringa.

Read More...

US: Felony counts in Calif. case dropped after plea bargain

A California man arrested in December 2010 for aiming a green laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter reached a plea bargain agreement. 39-year-old Kevin Wayne Foster pleaded “no contest” on June 20 2011 to two misdemeanors: interfering with an aircraft, and pointing a laser at a peace officer. He was sentenced to time served. In addition, the pilot who was temporarily blinded in the incident suggested that Foster give presentations to schools and others on the hazards of pointing lasers at aircraft. Foster was therefore also sentenced to 100 hours of community service giving such presentations.

Two felony charges were dropped: assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and discharging a laser. Foster could have faced more than four years in prison if convicted of these felonies.


Two misdemeanors, time served in jail, and 100 hours of community service

From the Redding Record Searchlight. Details about the December 6 2010 incident are here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

Sweden: "Aviation sabotage" conviction for 21-year-old

A 21-year-old was convicted of “aviation sabotage” for repeatedly aiming a laser at a police helicopter in February 2010. According to a news report, the pilot was wearing “protective sunglasses” which helped avoid “what could have been a serious accident” as the helicopter flew over Gothenburg, Sweden.

The 21-year-old was convicted under the Radiation Protection Act. He received a suspended sentence with community service. A more severe sentence of 90 days was not imposed because the man had no previous criminal record.

From
The Local

US: UPDATED - 5 years probation for Florida man

Mark Clay Hazlitt, 59, of Lakeland Florida was sentenced on June 2 2011 to five years probation on federal charges of interfering with the operation of a Polk County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.


Five years probation

The judge ruled that Hazlitt’s laser pointer was not a “dangerous weapon” under the circumstances of the case. This finding helped reduce the severity of Hazlitt’s sentence. He could have received up to 20 years in prison for the November 21 2010 green laser pointer illumination, which occurred because he was “tired of hearing” the helicopter.

According to The Ledger, Hazlitt said at the sentencing that “his actions last year [were] the result of ‘very bad judgment.’” He has started a website, laserawareness.us, in order to apologize and to publicize the hazards and potential penalties of laser pointer misuse.

LaserPointerSafety.com carried a story about the original Lakeland laser incident here.

From
NewsChief.com and The Ledger

US: FAA to impose civil penalties

The Federal Aviation Administration announced on June 1 2011 that they will impose civil penalties of up to $11,000 on any person who aims laser beams at aircraft.

Many more details about this new policy are at LaserPointerSafety.com’s main article, which is here.

Australia: Arrest for aiming at TV station helicopter

A 35-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser pointer at Channel 9’s helicopter on May 20 2011. He was charged with endangering the safe use of a vehicle by directing a beam of light from a laser. According to news reports, the pilot said he was temporarily blinded as he flew over Brisbane: “It’s like staring into the headlights of [a] car ... for a few minutes you lose your vision reference.”

From the Courier Mail and ABC News

UPDATE, June 29 2011: The man, Morgan Daniel Raine, was fined AUS $1000 (USD $1078) on the endangerment charge, plus $300 for possession of ecstasy which was found during a search of his apartment for the laser pointer. Raine said the lasing was stupid and he meant no harm. From the Courier Mail


Fined AUS $1000 for aiming a laser up to five times at a TV helicopter

US: 18 months in Philadelphia helicopter incident

A 22-year-old Philadelphia man will be spending the next year and a half in prison, for an incident where he aimed a green laser at a city police helicopter. The pilot was temporarily blinded, felt a sudden intense pain in his eye, and “lost control”; his co-pilot took over.

According to press reports, it is unclear if the man, Lenny Tavarez, knew that the laser could cause a crash. Tavarez was 19, and a recent high school graduate with no criminal record, when the October 2008 incident occurred. He was sentenced May 13 2011.

From
Philly.com. A report of the original 2008 incident is at ABC 6.

US: Jurors find spotlight misuser guilty on one charge, not guilty on another

Jurors deliberated for a day in a case where a man aimed a spotlight at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter on September 22 2010. The pilots, who were wearing night-vision goggles, were temporarily blinded by the spotlight. The co-pilot had to remove his goggles and direct the pilot, who was not able to remove his goggles while still piloting the aircraft.

On April 28 2011 the jury found Wayne P. Groen, 42, guilty of incapacitation of an individual during authorized operation of an aircraft. The jury found him not guilty of interfering with the authorized operation of an aircraft. Sentencing was set for August 4 2011.

Groen lives near Lynden, Washington about 1/2 mile south of the U.S.-Canada border. According to the Seattle Times, Groen said he aimed the spotlight at the Border Protection helicopter because he was “curious” about their activities, bothered by the noise, and “wanted to alert the pilots as to how close they were to his home.”


Groen lives on H Street Road, which parallels the U.S.-Canada border

The Bellingham Herald reports that some of Groen’s neighbors have been annoyed by Border Protection activities, such as frequent low-level helicopter flights and vehicles traveling through their yards and fields. They “have been tempted” to spotlight helicopters, and felt that threat of a long prison term (up to 40 years) for Groen was excessive. One man quoted by the paper said he was in an old barn at night when a helicopter hovered overhead and the metal roof began to rattle and shake: “Had I had a good flashlight I would have shined it up at that black object to see what it was.”

From the Seattle Times and the Bellingham Herald. An account of the opening day of the trial, entitled “Light v. helicopter -- who felt threatened most?” can be read after registering at the Lynden Tribune; a cached version is available at Google.

UPDATE August 4 2011: Wayne Groen was sentenced to two months in prison, 90 days of home detention, 120 hours of community service, three years of community supervision, and a $5,000 fine for incapacitating an individual during the authorized operation of an aircraft. Groen could have received up to 20 years in prison. The prosecution recommended 10 months; the defense wanted no prison time, one year of probation, 120 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine. From The News Tribune

UK: Eight months in prison for Maidstone man

A 21-year-old Maidstone man has been sentenced to eight months in prison for endangering the Kent and Essex Police helicopter while it was on a task in Maidstone last year.

On the evening of June 24 2010 the police helicopter was carrying out a search in the town centre when someone shining a laser pen in the direction of the aircraft distracted the pilot. The laser lit up the flight deck, dazzling the pilot and forcing him to remove a hand from the flight controls to shield his eyes. As he tried to maneuver the craft away from the light he was deliberately tracked.

The aircrew managed to direct local patrols to the origin of the light, where Jarome Tomlinson was arrested. He was later charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a way that was likely to endanger an aircraft, contrary to the Civil Aviation Act 1982. He was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on April 15 2011.

Acting Superintendent Nicola Faulconbridge of the Force Contact and Control Centre said: “This was a very dangerous thing to do and consequences could have been far more serious, but for the skills of the pilot. The crew were going about their daily job - protecting the public - when the light from the laser blinded the pilot. It is testament to his flying skills that he maintained control of the craft but it was an act that not only endangered the crew but also those below in Maidstone town centre.”

His Honour Judge Macdonald QC, passing sentence, said Tomlinson came from a good home with a good mother and had shown genuine remorse but that a suspended sentence wouldn't provide a deterrent to others.

Tomlinson will spend four months of his eight month sentence in prison.

From a Kent Police press release

UK: 21-year-old gets 6 month sentence for Northumbria lasing

Aiming a green laser pen at a Northumbria Police helicopter resulted in a 6-month jail sentence -- and a missed career in the RAF -- for Jonathan Quantrill, 21, of Plessey Gardens, North Shields. Quantrill repeatedly aimed a green laser at the helicopter on August 22 2010, after drinking two cans of beer. The pilot reported that his night vision was degraded. He was able to lead officers on the ground to Quantrill’s home, where the 21-year-old was found with the laser pen.

At sentencing, the judge noted that although Quantrill was “a perfectly decent young man ... showing off your newly purchased laser pen to friends”, it was important to set an example: “Others should know if they behave as you did they are likely to go to prison.”

From
Chronicle Live

US: Over two years in prison, $10,000 fine for lasering police helicopter

James Gautieri, 53, was sentenced on April 13 2011 to 33 months in prison plus a $10,000 fine for the April 30 2008 illumination of a police helicopter in Philadelphia. The charge was “interference with an aircraft.” The chopper pilot testified that he was temporarily blinded and the aircraft went into a nosedive. He said he would have crashed if his co-pilot had not taken over the controls.

The judge called Gautieri a “liar” for claiming that he was using the laser to follow stars.

Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey said “Let the sentencing today send a message that this behavior will not be tolerated.” U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said “As a direct result of his reckless and irresponsible behavior, the defendant will now have several years to think about how he endangered public safety by shining a laser into a helicopter pilot's eyes.”

From
NBC Philadelphia, CBS Philly and an FBI press release

US: 30 days in jail for Midway laser illumination

24-year-old Elvin Slater pleaded guilty on April 1 2011 to the misdemeanor of unlawful use of a weapon -- a laser pointer aimed at aircraft. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 18 months of probation, and one month in a “sheriff’s work alternative program”

The charge stemmed from a March 17 incident when he and Shania Smith, 22, aimed a laser at a Southwest Airlines flight that was landing at Midway Airport, and then again at a police helicopter that was investigating the Southwest illumination. Both Slater and Smith were initially charged with two counts of discharging a laser pointer at a police officer and four counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft. Smith is awaiting trial on May 4.

From the
Chicago Sun-Times and WLS-AM

US: Florida man pleads guilty to helicopter illumination

Mark Clay Hazlett pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. He could receive up to 20 years in prison. The charge stems from a Nov. 21 2010 incident when Hazlett aimed a green laser pointer at a police helicopter. The crew was forced to break off their search in order to deal with the laser illuminations. (More on the original incident is here.)

Hazlett will be sentenced at a later date.

From
The Ledger

UPDATE, JUNE 2 2011: Hazlitt was sentenced to five years probation on the federal charge. He said the incident was “very bad judgment.” Update from The Ledger.

US: Ohio man gets 2 days; says he did not understand laser's effect

25-year-old Timothy Lyman pleaded guilty to an October 20 2010 incident where he aimed a laser at a Columbus Ohio police helicopter, temporarily blinding the pilot and co-pilot.

When arrested, he admitted to his actions and handed the laser pointer to police. He had originally been charged with a felony (interfering with the operation of an aircraft with a laser), but on March 16 2011 he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, attempted interfering with operation of an aircraft. He told the court “I really do apologize for what happened. I didn't understand (that) what I did would have that effect."

Lyman was sentenced to the two days he served in jail after his arrest.

From the Columbus Dispatch

US: Fla. man accepts plea; did not think laser could reach aircraft

A 34-year-old Florida man pleaded guilty to one count of pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot, a third-degree felony. He avoided up to five years of prison and instead received one year probation, 140 hours of community service, and agreed not to possess a laser pointer.

Michael Anthony Fowler
One year probation, 140 hours of community service --- and cannot own a laser pointer

Michael Anthony Fowler of Silver Springs Shores was arrested Dec. 2 2010 after a “bluish laser light” illuminated a Marion County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Ocala.com quoted him as saying “I didn’t even think the laser pointer could reach that far.” Fowler told the news site that he was the second person in Florida history to be charged with that offense, after Frank Newton Anderson.

From Ocala.com and Gainesville.com

Canada: Man gets lower fine, in part because pilot did not lose control

In a case which may have Canadian implications for laser users’ defense, a judge reduced the fine for an Edmonton man charged with creating a hazard to aviation safety.

Provincial Judge Paul Sully said the August 19 2009 incident was "not as serious” as the prosecutor described, since the pilot did not lose control, but instead was "momentarily blinded from viewing his instruments [and] was able to complete his orbits.” In addition, the judge noted that the pilot was familiar with the dangers of laser light.

Judge Sully also rejected the prosecution’s notion that the man should have culpability: “The offender had a momentary loss of common sense which resulted from his failure to recognize the high standard of care needed when handling a laser.” Read More...

UK: Six month sentence suspended for Cheshire man

27-year-old Joseph Standish pleaded guilty on January 28 2011 to aiming a green laser at a Cheshire Police helicopter. A police observer on board was disoriented for a few seconds during the August 2010 incident. He was able to use thermal imaging equipment and a low-light lens to track the laser to Standish’s address in Winsford.

Before officers arrived, Standish dropped the laser into a drain. He denied the incident, but went to the Winsford Police Station the next day where he admitted aiming at the helicopter.

Standish was convicted of acting recklessly or negligently in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He was sentenced to six months in prison which was suspended for two years, and was ordered to do 150 hours of community service. The laser pen was confiscated.

From the Police Oracle

US: Firing gun at helicopter: 10 years; using lasers: 3-20 years

In the past few years, a number of persons have been convicted of illuminating pilots of aircraft, often police helicopters. LaserPointerSafety.com has a partial list here. In the U.S., the average sentence seems to be about 3 years. Some persons may wonder how lasers are treated compared with guns.

In Orlando, two similar cases in the same jurisdiction provide one point of comparison.

Jason Dennis McGuire was convicted Jan 21 2011 of firing a handgun at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter in March 2010. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Jason Dennis McGuire “faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison”. He will be sentenced in April 2011.

In a parallel case, the Sentinel notes that another Orlando man, Frank Newton Anderson, “faces up to 20 years in prison for interfering with the operation of an aircraft” by shining a laser at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter in April 2010. Anderson pleaded guilty on January 20 2011 to one count of interfering with an aircraft, Anderson also will be sentenced in April 2011. This case was previously reported here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

From the Orlando Sentinel and a Tampa FBI press release

GUN UPDATE: On April 26 2011, Jason Dennis McGuire was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for firing a handgun at a sheriff’s helicopter, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The charges were “attempted destruction of an aircraft, possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony, and ... using a firearm during a violent crime.” A press release from the U.S. Department of Justice is here.

LASER UPDATE: In July 2011, Frank Newton Anderson was sentenced to one year probation and a $4000 fine for interfering with the operation of an aircraft, according to the Orlando Sentinel. In addition, it appears this is a felony conviction which will prevent Anderson from working in his field of security. At the time of his arrest, he owned Viking Protective Group of Winter Park, Florida.

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

US: UPDATED - 3-year prison sentence for targeting police helicopter

A Massachusetts man was sentenced to three years in federal prison, for the December 8, 2007 illumination of a state police helicopter. The charges included “willfully interfering with an aircraft operator with reckless disregard for human life”, and making false statements to arresting officers.

52-year-old Gerard Sasso aimed a Class 3B green laser, said to be “at least five to ten times more powerful than an ordinary laser pointer” [approximately 25 to 50 milliwatts], at a helicopter that was escorting a liquified natural gas tanker through Boston Harbor. The pilots took evasive action, but the cockpit was hit and filled with “an intense sparkling green light”. The pilots and Coast Guard were able to trace the source to Sasso’s apartment in Medford. He “falsely and repeatedly” told police he was not the perpetrator. However, officers saw a laser pointer and he then admitted lasing the aircraft. Eleven lasers were seized from his apartment.

News reports quoted prosecutors as saying that Sasso was the second person in the U.S. to be convicted of lasing an aircraft. They also pointed to the November 2009 sentence of a California man who received 2.5 years for shining a laser at two airplanes and temporarily blinding a pilot. [This may refer to federal prison sentences, since others in the U.S. have received jail time for laser/aircraft incidents. The Nov. 2009 reference is to Dana Christian Welch.]

From
Island Crisis and the Boston Herald. Thanks to David Freihofer and Paul Berthot for bringing this to our attention.

UPDATE August 1 2012: Sasso’s case was appealed on grounds that the jury was given incorrect instructions at the January 2010 trial. The jury was told that it was sufficient for them to find that Sasso “willfully” aimed his laser at the helicopter. However Sasso’s public defender argued August 1 2012 in appeals court that Sasso had to willfully know that his actions would interfere with the aircraft operator. Thus, the jury should have been told to determine if Sasso knew the laser could interfere. An updated story is here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

US: Up to 20 years in prison possible in Orlando helicopter incident

A 43-year-old man has admitted guilt in an April 13 2010 incident when he hit a Sheriff’s Office helicopter two times as it flew over Orlando. The pilot “lost temporary sight of the aircraft’s instrumentation and horizon.” Frank Newton Anderson can face up to 20 years in federal prison for one count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. He will enter his guilty plea before a judge on January 19 2011.

From the Orlando Sentinel

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

US: Florida man annoyed at copter shines laser; arrested

A 58-year-old deliberately targeted a Polk County Sheriff’s Office helicopter on Sunday Nov. 21 because he was “tired of hearing it”. The aircraft had been searching for a suicidal suspect. They were forced to break off the search due to the “intense light that disoriented the pilot and a flight observer. It also interfered with night-vision equipment.” The pilot had to leave the area to readjust cockpit equipment, forcing additional units to be allocated to find the suicidal subject.

Mark Clay Hazlitt was arrested and charged under Florida law with Misuse of Laser Lighting Device, a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Sheriff Grady Judd said “Mr. Hazlitt deliberately interfered with a search in which deputies were trying to locate a man who said he was going to take his life. The laser used was strong enough to disrupt night vision devices thus creating a very real danger to our air unit crew. He deliberately placed the lives of our pilot and flight observer in jeopardy, as well as those on the ground had the helicopter crashed. Hazlitt's behavior was reckless and his actions felonious. We will not tolerate anyone placing the lives of our deputies or residents in danger."

The suicidal subject was later located and was placed in protective custody.

From the Orlando Sentinel via
Sun-Sentinel.com
Thanks to Tony Zmorenski for bringing this to our attention.

UPDATE #1, MARCH 18 2011: In January 2011, a grand jury indicted Hazlitt on a more serious U.S. federal charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. The penalty can be up to 20 years in prison. On March 18 2011, Hazlitt pleaded guilty to this federal charge. Sentencing was scheduled for later. Update from The Ledger

UPDATE #2, JUNE 2 2011: Hazlitt was sentenced to five years probation on the federal charge. The judge said the laser pointer was not a “dangerous weapon”. Hazlitt said the incident was “very bad judgment,” and has started a website, laserawareness.us, to publicize the dangers of pointer misuse. Update #2 from The Ledger.

US: 15 months in prison for 19-year-old

A 19-year-old man was sentenced to 15 months in U.S. federal prison, for illuminating a California Highway Patrol helicopter with a green laser beam. Nathan Ramon Wells will also be on probation for an additional three years after he completes his prison sentence.


15 months in prison for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft

”This was a very serious crime that deserved prison time,'' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Pell.

The June 3 2009 incident caused the helicopter pilots to be “momentarily blinded” and to change course -- breaking off from assisting police in a burglary investigation. The helicopter then tracked the car from which the light came. Officers on the ground stopped the vehicle and found Wells and a laser inside. During an interview with FBI agents in January 2010, "the defendant admitted that he pointed a green laser at the helicopter, which he knew was a police helicopter," according to the plea agreement, which says "he acted with reckless disregard for the safety of human life." In July 2010, Wells pled guilty to the felony of willfully interfering with an operator of an aircraft.

From the
Los Angeles Times; also at Gawker, Palm Springs Desert Sun and KESQ TV. Note: Sources differ on Wells’ age at sentencing; some say he was 19, others say he was 20. Sources also differ on the maximum penalty possible for interference with an operator of an aircraft; some say 3.5 years is the maximum, others say 20 years. And, sources differ on the date of the guilty plea; some say July 2010, others say September 2010.

US: 366 days in prison for interfering with patrol helicopter

Robert Duane Nighswander, 44, of Orland, California, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for using a laser to interfere with an aircraft.

On October 21 2009, the California Highway Patrol was conducting a felony traffic stop near Nighswander’s home. Two CHP officers, both licensed pilots, were providing aerial support in a helicopter approximately 700 feet above the ground. Nighswander pointed a green laser device with a range of up to seven miles at the pilots to see if they would react. He pointed the laser at the helicopter no fewer than four times, affecting the pilots’ vision and ability to control the craft. Fortunately, the pilots were affected at separate times, kept the helicopter in the air, and identified the source of the laser. Read More...

UK: 4 months for steady aiming at RAF Tornado jet

An RAF Tornado fighter jet was illuminated by a beam “focused on the jet cockpit for up to ten seconds”, on 16 August 2010, at RAF Leuchars airbase (near St. Andrews, Scotland). One month later, 28-year-old Romanian migrant worker Radu Moldovan pleaded guilty to culpably and recklessly endangering a military aircraft. He received a four-month sentence.

radu-moldovan
Four month sentence for Radu Moldovan

His lawyer said that Moldovan “wanted to see how powerful” the £4 green laser pen was. The laser beam was aimed at or near the aircraft multiple times. The local sheriff said “The consequences of a Tornado crashing at RAF Leuchars raises the most horrific possibilities of death and injury to the pilot, navigator and anyone passing underneath.”

From
BBC News

UK: Two men fined £400 after hitting helicopter

Two young men were arrested September 1 in Cambridge for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter. On September 14 they were found guilty of “directing or shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot”. They were fined £150 each, plus £85 in court costs and a £15 “victim surcharge”. The laser was destroyed as well.

22-year-old Shane Ramsay and 20-year-old Darryl Hodgkinson said they bought the green pointer for £20 and aimed it at the police helicopter “for a laugh”. Their attorney said the two men “had no idea what they did could potentially endanger the pilot’s eyesight.” A local police sergeant was quoted as saying “This his kind of stupidity is increasing in the aviation world. It is reckless and foolhardy and those who do so will be arrested and brought before the courts.”

From SWNS.com News Service

US: Man sentenced to 2 years for lasing helicopter

Clint Jason Brenner, 36, was sentenced to two years in prison for hitting an Arizona police helicopter with a green laser pointer. On Dec. 9 2009, the helicopter was searching for a burglary suspect when “green laser light struck its windshield, causing glare that blinded the pilot for an instant.” Because “the light put the pilot and crew member in danger”, in April 2010 a jury found Brenner guilty of two counts of endangerment, which is a felony.

Pasted Graphic
Two years in prison for laser-caused endangerment


On May 24, a judge sentenced Brenner to two years on each count, with the two 2-year terms to run concurrently. In addition, Brenner was ordered to pay $500 in court-related costs.

From the Prescott, Arizona Daily Courier

US: Four years for laser pointer at helicopter

A Rocklin California man has been sent to state prison for four years for pointing a laser beam at a Placer County Sheriff’s helicopter that flew over his neighborhood on a July night in 2009.

Jamie Allen Downie, 35, was given the sentence Friday January 22 2010 by Placer County Superior Court Judge Joseph O’Flaherty after he entered a plea of guilty to two felony counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft.


Four years in prison for aiming a laser pointer at a helicopter

Pointing a laser beam at an aircraft in flight is a federal offense. A laser has the potential of blinding and disabling the pilot, which in turn could lead to the crash of the aircraft. Had he been prosecuted in federal court, Downie could have faced a longer prison sentence, according to Placer County Sheriff’s Sgt. Van Bogardus, the pilot who was the victim in the laser incident in Rocklin.

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US: 2.5 years in prison for Calif. man

A California man, the first in the U.S. to be convicted at trial for interfering with pilots by beaming lasers at planes, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on November 2 2009.


2 1/2 years in prison for laser interference with pilots

Dana Christian Welch, 37, of Orange, California was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Welch also is to serve three years of supervised release after completing his prison term, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherilyn Peace Garnett said.

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US: 3+ years in prison for California man

Balltazar O. Valladares, 30, was sentenced to three years and one month in prison for shining a green laser at a Sacramento CA sheriff’s helicopter on March 16 2009 [see report here]. The copter was hit while searching for the source of a laser that earlier in the evening had illuminated a Southwest Airlines flight landing at Sacramento International Airport.


Three years and one month in prison for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft

Valladares admitted hitting the helicopter but denied hitting the airplane. He pled guilty in June 2009 to one count of interfering with the safe operation of an aircraft. In addition to his 37-month sentence, he also will have three years of probation after his release.

In sentencing Valladares, U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb acknowledged the defendant’s “apparently sincere indication to turn his life around,” but said it was important to send the message that shining a laser at aircraft in flight is a “very serious problem (with) very, very serious consequences.”

From CrimeVoice.com

Australia: "Did not know the beam was strong enough to reach the plane"

A suburban Brisbane man pleaded guilty and was fined AUS $800 for “endangering the safe use of a vehicle by directing a beam of light from a laser,” after tracking a light aircraft on August 27 2009.

20-year-old Nicholas Paul Gregory told police he had aimed at the aircraft, but “he did not know the beam was strong enough to reach the plane.” At trial, his defense lawyer said Gregory had no intent to harm anyone: “He is still shocked at his own stupidity and the consequences of his own stupidity.”

Gregory could have received a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

From the
Brisbane Times

UK: 180 hours of community service "for a laugh"

A 21-year-old UK woman was sentenced to 6 months in jail for shining a laser pen “for a laugh” at a police helicopter in Staines, just outside London Heathrow Airport. However, Natasha Forster’s sentence was suspended and she was ordered to carry out 180 hours of community service instead. The judge also ordered the laser to be destroyed.

A police inspector was quoted as saying “The sentence handed out sends a clear warning to anyone else considering such reckless behaviour. Endangering an aircraft is a criminal offence and it will not be tolerated.”

From the Richmond-Twickenham Times and The Independent.

UK: 150 hours community service, avoids 8 months in jail

Peter Hind, 38, of Shirebrook in Nottinghamshire, UK, was sentenced to 150 hours of community service for aiming a green laser at a police helicopter. He would have received eight months in jail, except that he is the only caregiver for his 12-year-old son. The judge said “he made a stupid mistake but sending him to prison would punish his child more.”

From the
Mirror.

New Zealand: Sentenced to 200 hours service for illuminating Wellington airplane

Vladimir Maricic, 25, was sentenced to 200 hours of community service for twice hitting a Mt Cook Airlines plane with a laser beam, as it flew near Wellington on March 4 2008. Maricic was aiming from a car park at the Mt Victoria lookout. He said he wanted to see how far the beam would reach, and that he did not intend any harm. He was charged under the Civil Aviation Act with causing unnecessary danger.

The judge said Maricic’s actions were “extremely dangerous no matter how unintentional.”

From the
New Zealand Herald

Australia: Student faces possible life imprisonment

A 26-year-old student faces possible life imprisonment on a charge of “prejudicing the operation of an aircraft” by shining a green laser pen at a Quantas aircraft as it neared Adelaide. Irfan Bozan was also charged with “acts to endanger life” and “carrying an offensive weapon”.


Irfan Bozan, a student from Turkey, pointed the laser at aircraft and passing cars.



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Scotland: £4000 (US $6500) fine for flashing laser at rescue helicopter

A 22-year-old was fined £4000 (US $6500, Euro 4500) for flashing a green laser beam at pilots in a rescue helicopter. On Nov. 1 2008, an RAF Sea King helicopter was carrying a teenager injured in a climbing accident. Rosen Romanov dazzled the pilots who were at an altitude of 1000 feet over homes in Caol, Fort William, in Scotland.

The pilots felt that it was only their night-vision goggles, which reduced the glare, that saved them from a “tragic crash”. Romanov was found guilty of culpable and reckless conduct and was fined the record amount.

From the Daily Record. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.

UPDATE: In late August 2009, Romanov’s lawyers appealed, saying “the fine was maybe suitable for the offense, but not enough consideration has been given to his financial circumstances.” A hearing was scheduled for September 10. From the Press and Journal.

Wales: 10 month jail sentence after laser hits plane

21-year-old Hossein Hosseiny was sentenced to 4 months in jail for endangering the safety of an aircraft by shining a laser into the cockpit of a landing airplane. In addition, he received another 6 months for supplying drugs that had been found by officers tracking down the laser pointer misuse.

Hosseiny, originally from Afghanistan, was in the UK after seeking asylum in 2002. As a result of his laser assault and subsequent convictions, he was served with a deportation notice.

In the March 2009 incident, the airplane pilot said he had a "momentary loss of concentration" due to a "dazzling green light" as the plane was landing at Cardiff (Wales) airport. The trial judge stated that "The consequences of such an action could have been catastrophic. Fortunately there was no catastrophe and the aircraft landed safety."

More details from
BBC News.

US: 3 year sentence in laser case

A Cleveland-area man who shined a green laser into the cockpits of airplanes and a helicopter last June will spend three years in prison after pleading guilty to those crimes and separate drug-dealing charges. Justin Dewalt, 26, pleaded guilty to several felonies and was sentenced Friday, officials said.


Three years in prison for lasering airplanes and other offenses

According to the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) prosecutor's office, the laser incidents unfolded this way:

Dewalt bought a high-power laser off the Internet and brought it to a party June 4 2008. That night, flight crews of two planes about to land at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport reported that someone hit their cockpits with a laser. One airliner carried about 20 people, the other about 100.

About an hour later, a laser hit the cockpit of a MetroHealth Medical Center helicopter flying a patient to the hospital from Elyria.

The helicopter pilot told Cleveland police the area where the laser came from and when a pilot for the police helicopter flew over to investigate, he, too, was hit in the eye by a laser that was coming from a moving car.

Cleveland police stopped the car a short time later and found Dewalt in the back seat with a laser.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com. See also Fox News.

UK: 4 months jail; pilot turned controls over to co-pilot

A 19-year-old man who shone a laser pen into an aircraft, temporarily blinding the pilot, has been sent to a young offenders' institution for four months.

Ben Philip Vout targeted a KLM flight coming in to land with 40 passengers at Durham Tees Valley Airport in northeast England, in August 2008. He also shone the device at a police helicopter sent to investigate.

Vout, 19, and from Heslop Street in Thornaby had earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

Teesside Crown Court was told that the KLM flight had to be landed by the co-pilot.

From
BBC News

French Polynesia: 15 days in jail for pointing laser at plane

A court in French Polynesia has sentenced a man to 15 days in jail for pointing a laser at an aircraft. The incident happened last month [September 2008] when the man pointed the laser at an Air Tahiti plane.

Police, who were alerted by the pilot after he was blinded, say the man was unaware of the risks his action posed.

There is no regulation in French Polynesia on the sale of lasers which can be beamed up to 17 kilometers.

From Radio New Zealand International

Canada: More incidents; man fined $1000

US: Two years jail for a 3.3 mW laser

A California man was sentenced earlier this week to two years in jail, for shining a 3.3 milliwatt laser at an aircraft. This was reported by a member of the SAE G-10T subcommittee who testified at the man’s sentencing. At this time, we do not have any additional information.

Reported by Patrick Murphy, an ILDA representative to the SAE G-10T subcommittee

NZ: Man faces 14 years in prison for helicopter incident

A young Auckland, New Zealand man is facing up to 14 years in prison for allegedly shining a high-powered laser pointer at the police helicopter Eagle - which promptly hunted him down.

Police say the helicopter is being targeted by lasers almost weekly and want the government to follow Australia's lead in banning possession of the high-powered lasers and introducing a specific charge for laser-pointing.

"Because I don't want to crash, and that's exactly what's going to happen," says pilot and senior constable Shane Gayley. "Helicopters don't glide. There's only one way down and you're screaming all the way." Read More...

Australia: "Laser fool" sentenced, fined for illuminating police helicopter

A Sydney mechanic who deliberately shone a laser into the eyes of police as they hovered in a helicopter hundreds of metres above homes in Sydney's northwest was yesterday sentenced to six months jail.

Zakary Patrick Babet, of Bella Vista, was yesterday convinced in Hornsby Local Court of interfering with a crew member while in an aircraft.

Magistrate Leslie Brennan called Babet a "fool", and labelled his actions as a "serious" offence.
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Canada: Calgary man fined $1000

A Calgary man charged with endangering a flight by shining a laser beam into the cockpit of an Air Canada flight has been fined $1,000.

David Mackow, 29, who pleaded guilty to the federal charge, was sentenced on Monday and ordered to pay the fine within 30 days or face jail time. He also has to forfeit his laser pointer.

In October 2007, Mackow shone the pointer, commonly used in boardroom presentations, from his Beltline apartment at the flight that was landing in Calgary.

The pilot reported the incident and Calgary police dispatched its HAWCS helicopter to investigate. Mackow then pointed the green beam into the helicopter.

More details are available from
CBC News

UK: 4 months jail for "endangering aircraft"

A 21-year-old man from Greater Manchester who temporarily blinded a police helicopter pilot with a laser pen has been jailed for four months. Dean Bottomley, of Stockport, pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft during an earlier hearing at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court.

Pilot Captain Mark Westwood told the court: "The overall effect was temporary blindness. I lost outside visual reference and could not see the instrumentation displayed in the aircraft.”

After the first incident he had to fly blind, taking emergency evasive action to position the helicopter out of the beam. He added: "It was a very dangerous manoeuvre, but I had to do it to get myself out of that dazzle."
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Australia: Three years jail for aiming laser at helicopter

23-year-old Lanfranco Baldetti has been sentenced to almost three years in jail. He was one of the first Australians to be prosecuted for shining a laser at an aircraft.

The South Australian pleaded guilty to prejudicing the safe operation of an aircraft. Judge David Smith described Baldetti's actions as a disaster in the making, and sentenced him to two years and 10 months jail, with a non-parole period of 10 months.
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