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Germany: Eight months for aiming laser at aircraft, police helicopter

Unnamed man, 49
Zossen, Brandenburg, Germany


A 49-year-old German man was sentenced May 31 2017 to eight months in prison for aiming a laser at a police helicopter.

In August 2016, several aircraft flying in or out of Berlin Schönefeld Airport reported glare from a laser beam A police helicopter was sent to investigate, and was also hit by laser light.

The unnamed perpetrator later said in court he had not been aiming at anything specific in the night sky, and that he did not see the helicopter.

He was sentenced in Zossen (Brandenburg) District Court; Zossen is about 20 miles south of Berlin.

From Spiegel Online in original German and in Google-translated English. Thanks to Alex Hennig for bringing this to our attention.

UK: 240 hours of community service for selling illegal laser pens

Lynsey McClure, 47
Surrey, UK

Lynsey McClure laser

McClure was sentenced in mid-July 2016 to 240 hours of community service for illegally importing 300 over-powered lasers. One of the lasers was sold for £6 (USD $9) at a school Christmas fair and subsequently caused an eye injury to a seven-year-old boy.

Lynsey McClure had imported the lasers from a Chinese supplier who said they complied with U.K. regulations limiting laser pens to 1 milliwatt of power. Her brother, who was not charged, sold them in a stall during a school fair in December 2015. The headmaster asked her brother to stop selling the laser, but he continued.

Jonathan Marshall, 7, purchased one of the lasers. It was later found to have an output of 127 milliwatts.

His mother said Jonathan was playing with it at home when the beam went into his eye for “a fraction of a second.” He has a retinal burn which interferes with his vision.

McClure pleaded guilty to nine product safety and consumer protection violations, including selling an unsafe product and failing to disclose the power of the laser.

The case appears to be the first where a person has been prosecuted for an illegal laser sale that led to an injury.

From the Sunday Times (subscription required to read the entire article) and the JC.com

UK: Eight and six month sentences for two Leicester men

Martin Gary Jayes, 46, and Oktawain Kamil Plaskiewicz, 22
New Parks, Leicester, UK


On March 9 2016, the two men aimed the green beam of a laser pen at a police helicopter, forcing it to abort its mission to find a missing person. The helicopter pilot directed ground officers to a park where they found Jayes and Plaskiewicz. Each said the other was using the laser.

They pleaded guilty to charges of recklessly or negligently endangering the safety of an aircraft and those traveling within it.

On July 22 2016, Jayes was sentenced to eight months in jail, and Plaskiewicz was sentenced to six months. (Jayes previously had 71 convictions on his criminal record and was in breach of a community order at the time of his arrest.)

US: 6 months for targeting up to 25 aircraft in Portland

Stephen Francis Bukucs, 41
Portland, Oregon, US

Stephen Francis Bukucs laser

Bukucs was sentenced to 6 months in federal prison on March 16 2015 for two felony counts of aiming a laser pointer at commercial jetliners as they approached Portland International Airport in October 2013.

On July 15, 2014, Bukucs pleaded guilty to aiming his green laser at United Airlines Flight 1406 and Jet Blue Flight 1205 as they flew over his apartment in Northeast Portland on October 13, 2013. His arrest occurred after intense air and ground surveillance by FBI agents and police officers. Investigators reported over 100 laser strikes from the vicinity of defendant’s apartment in 2013, the government stated to the court.

After his prison term, Bukucs must also serve three years of supervised release. From an FBI news release.

US: Eight years, suspended, for Ohio lasing of a TV helicopter

Nicholas Vecchiarelli, 46
Hubbard, Ohio, US


Nicholas Vecchiarelli laser

Vecchiarelli was sentenced on October 2 2014 to probation for five years, has to do 200 hours of community service, must write an apology to his victims, has to pay a $1,000 fine, has an 11 pm curfew, and must stay out of liquor establishments. If he violates his probation, he could go to prison for eight years.

Vecchiarelli was arrested for aiming a laser at a news helicopter that was filming an October 11 2013 football game at Hubbard (Ohio) High School. The cameraman told police the laser light entered his eyes. He was able to direct police to the laser location, about 1 mile southeast of the stadium.

Australia: $10,000 fine and court costs for Mandurah man

Raymond Alexander Moore, 40
Mandurah, Western Australia


Moore was fined AUS $10,000 (USD $9,093) on September 19 2014, for continually aiming a green laser beam at a police helicopter.

On August 25 2014, he was walking his dog and playing with the laser pointer when he decided to aim it at a helicopter overhead. His lawyer said Moore “didn’t think it would hit or reach the aircraft.” The pilot took evasive action and was “distressed” throughout the incident. When arrested, Moore told police his actions were “stupid” and he was an “idiot.”

He could have been jailed for up to three years, and fined up to $36,000. The sentencing judge said Moore was lucky to not be jailed, given that “the risk of damage was huge.”

UK: 16 and 12 week sentences for Birmingham-area men

Claudio Bruno, 48
Bloxwich, West Midlands, UK
Carl Keates, 23
Walsall, West Midlands, UK


On September 2 2014, Bruno was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail, and Keates was sentenced to 12 weeks, for aiming at a West Midlands police helicopter for about 25 minutes in a “repeated and prolonged attack”. Both men pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft.

New Zealand: Alcohol treatment, community service & probation for man who lased police helicopter

Kristian Larsen, 44
Auckland, New Zealand


On May 30 2014, Larsen was sentenced to alcohol treatment, 100 hours of community service, and 12 months probation after being convicted of endangering transport. On December 1 2013, the pilot of the Eagle police helicopter was momentarily blinded and, a day later, had a headache after being exposed to blue light from Larsen’s laser. At sentencing, the judge called Larsen’s actions a “drunken escapade.” Larsen said he regretted his actions: “We all make mistakes, and this was mine to make.”

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

Christopher Manning, 40
Woodvale, Western Australia, Australia

On September 4 2013, Manning was fined AUS $10,000 (USD $9,140) 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. He was later found guilty in Joondalup magistrates court.

US: 1 year in prison, 3 years probation

Robert Duane Nighswander, 44
Orland, California, US

On October 21 2009, Nighswander aimed a green laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter at least four times. He was sentenced September 28 2010 for using a laser to interfere with an aircraft.

US: 2 months in prison, other penalties, for spotlight (not laser) incident

Wayne Groen, 42
Lynden, Washington, US

On September 22 2010, Groen aimed a spotlight (not a laser) at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter, at a time when local residents had been complaining about border agents' actions. On April 28 2011, a jury found Groen not guilty of interfering with the authorized operation of an aircraft. They found him guilty of incapacitation of an individual during authorized operation of an aircraft.

Groen was sentenced on August 4 2011 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.

US: 30 months probation, $5000 fine

Todd Michael Manz, 43
Fostoria, Ohio, US

On July 20 2010, Manz aimed 50 milliwatt handheld lasers at river barges, airplanes and a police helicopter in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. He pleaded guilty on May 20 2011 to lying to FBI agents. Manz could have received up to 30 months in prison.

Also involved were David Erminger, 28, and Matthew Mauck, 34. They were placed on one-year diversion on June 22 2011. The criminal charges against them will be erased if they stay out of trouble (no new charges) during the next year.

US: 1 year probation, $4000 fine

Frank Newton Anderson, 43
Orlando, Florida, US

Frank Newton Anderson

On April 13 2010, Anderson was arrested for aiming a green laser at an Orange County (FL) sheriff's helicopter. He pleaded guilty in December 2010, and was sentenced in July 2011 on a federal charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft.

His case was especially interesting since it paralleled the case of Jason Dennis McGuire who was arrested March 2010 in Orlando for firing a handgun at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. McGuire was sentenced in April 2011 to 12.5 years in prison.

US: 90 days in jail, 3 years probation for shining lasers at three aircraft

Michael Andrew Cerise, 47
Phoenix, Arizona, US

Michael Cerise laser

On November 9 2011, Cerise aimed a green laser at two commercial aircraft. One was forced to veer off of a final approach, to avoid the laser light. A police helicopter sent to investigate was also lased. Ground units found a laser hidden in Cerise's couch cushions. Cerise eventually admitted aiming at the aircraft to see how far it could go. Authorities said three pilots were temporarily blinded during the incidents.

On August 8 2012, Cerise was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years supervised probation.