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US: UPDATED - 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.

UPDATED June 27 2014 - A federal appeals court upheld the two-year sentence. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Michael Smith’s assertion that he didn’t believe the laser would reach the aircraft. The court said the February 14 2012 federal law doesn’t require prosecutors to show that he intended to hit the aircraft. From The Republic.

US: 11-year-old Omaha boy targets aircraft with laser pointer

An 11-year-old Omaha boy was said to have aimed a laser pointer at an airplane approaching Eppley Airfield, the largest airport in Nebraska. Police were not initially able to locate the perpetrator of the lasing, which occurred about 12:45 am on June 20 2013, approximately 14 miles southwest of the airport.

However, at 3:30 am, a caller told police that juvenile males -- one with a laser pointer -- had knocked on his door and then run away. The caller’s location was about a mile from the original laser incident search area.

Police responding to the call found the 11-year-old and the laser pointer nearby. He was booked and then later released to his mother.

From the Omaha World-Herald and Nebraska Radio Network

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 - Omaha man question but do not arrest man for lasing plane, police helicopter

A man in his late 20’s who authorities believe aimed a laser at an airplane and a police helicopter, possibly on multiple occasions, was questioned after being located by an Omaha (Nebraska) police helicopter. He was released without arrest, though U.S. officials are investigating further.

The incident happened early in the morning of July 11 2012 in the backyard of a home in a suburb northwest of Omaha. As of July 16, no arrest had been made.

2012-07-16 Omaha laser pointer evidence 300w
A police evidence technician displays the laser pointer that was confiscated from the Omaha man. The Omaha World-Herald reported that the laser emits red light.


A spokesperson for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said "We're also told he might have been doing this on prior occasions. And on those occasions, it involved planes flying into Eppley [Airfield]. We're going to be investigating those allegations."

From Fox 42 News, KETV 7 and the Omaha World-Herald

UPDATED April 24 2013: Michael A. Smith, 30, was convicted of the July 11 2012 lasing. Sentencing is scheduled for July 22 2013. More is at this LaserPointerSafety.com story.

UPDATE 2, July 22 2013: Michael A. Smith was sentenced to two years in federal prison 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.