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Wales: Six months for Cardiff man, for aiming laser at four aircraft

Liam Chadwick, 28
St Mellons, Cardiff, Wales, UK

Liam Chadwick laser Wales

On August 1 2015, a Ryanair pilot reported seeing a green beam on takeoff from Bristol Airport. Two other aircraft had their flight paths altered because of the laser illumination. A police helicopter sent to locate the laser source found it was coming from a top-floor flat in eastern Cardiff. Ground police were sent.

After three minutes of knocking, Chadwick opened the door. Police found parts of a laser pen, which when re-assembled, produced green light.

The helicopter pilot had laser light go into his eye, and “had to see an optician to find out if he was fit to fly again,” according to the prosecutor at Chadwick’s October 2015 trial.

Chadwick’s barrister said “It was a laser pen he had bought for £1 and he didn’t realize or appreciate the consequences of what he was doing. He is deeply apologetic and says he wants to write a letter of apology to each of the pilots. He would never have played with a laser in the way he did if he had known it was a criminal act.”

Chadwick pleaded guilty to four counts of recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger aircraft (the three passenger planes and the police helicopter).

The trial judge rejected Chadwick’s plea for leniency due to his father being ill: “It was protracted behaviour, over a period of 20 minutes, and officers were directed to your home found you dismantling the pen. You say you are sorry, have entered an early guilty plea to reckless endangerment, and sadly your father is unwell. But such offences are becoming all too prevalent and it must be made absolutely plain to those who may buy these pens and behave in this way that custodial sentences are inevitable in order to deter others. In my view it is far too serious to be dealt with in any other way. The consequences to those travelling on those aircraft and to others on the ground could have been catastrophic.”

The judge sentenced Chadwick to six months in jail.

He was given an additional six months on an unrelated November 2014 charge of possessing cannabis with intent to supply, which had previously been suspended.

From the Guardian and Wales Online

New Zealand: 10 weeks for aiming at two planes; control tower

Tane Hemopo, 36
Hornby, Christchurch, New Zealand


On April 5 2016, Tane Hemopo, 39, was arrested for repeatedly aiming a “high powered” laser pointer at two passenger planes landing at Christchurch Airport. In one case, a Virgin Airlines aircraft with 121 passengers was illuminated for about 20 seconds while at 20,000 feet altitude, then was illuminated an additional three times while on final landing approach. The pilots were dazzled but did not report more serious eye effects. He also aimed at the airport control tower.

Hemopo admitted aiming at the aircraft, but not at the cockpit. He further said he was unaware the laser light could be dangerous.

In August 2016 Hemopo pleaded guilty to charges of “causing unnecessary danger.” This has a fine of up to NZD $10,000 and one year in prison.

The Crown dropped charges of “reckless disregard for the safety of others,” which has a maximum penalty of 14 years.

On September 28 2016, Hemopo failed to appear for sentencing. The judge issued an arrest warrant for Hemopo.

On December 1 2016, Hemopo was sentenced to 10 weeks in jail.

From Stuff.co.nz and the New Zealand Herald.

US: Six months in prison for Texas man who aimed laser at Department of Public Safety helicopter

Austin Lawrence Siferd, 25
Johnson County, Texas, US


Austin Lawrence Siferd laser

On July 22 2015, numerous aircraft including commercial and FedEx flights reported being illuminated by laser light. A Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter investigating the reports was also hit. Officers traced the beam to a home where Siferd was present.

He initially denied using a laser until officers told him they had video showing the beam coming from the house. Siferd then admitted he had aimed at the helicopter, but said he did not realize the beam could go all the way to the aircraft.

In March 2016 Siferd pleaded guilty to a felony indictment. In October 2016 he was sentenced to six months in a federal prison.

From the original LaserPointerSafety.com story, as updated October 15 2016.

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: $13,241 plus 15 days jail for aiming blue laser at ferry crew (could have been $100,000+)

Mark Raden, 27
Freeland, Washington state, US


On December 27 2016 the U.S. Coast Guard assessed a civil penalty of $9,500 against Raden for “interfering with the safe operation of a vessel” by aiming a blue laser at a Washington state ferry on October 22 2015. One of the ferry’s officers was said to have burns on his eyelid.

Raden also pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment in Island County Superior Court. He was ordered to serve 15 days in jail, perform 240 hours of community service, pay $3,740.89 in restitution to the master and chief mate, and serve 24 months probation.

On April 26 2016, the Coast Guard issued a civil penalty of $100,000 against Raden. According to a Coast Guard press release at the time, “Coast Guard officials are seeking civil penalties for violation of a safety and security zone as well as interference with the safe operation of the Tokitae [ferry] while it transited between Mukilteo and Clinton [in Washington state]. The final civil penalty amount [which turned out to be $9,500] will be determined by a Coast Guard Hearing Officer in Arlington, Va.”

A Coast Guard spokesperson told Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica "Originally there were multiple charges that brought the maximum amount to $100,000 [as] referenced in the original [press] release. Ultimately the hearing officer has the final say and chose to only pursue the one charge for 'interfering with the safe operation of a vessel' and assessed a fine of $9,500."

Raden has previously been in trouble for misusing a laser. In July 2015, Raden and his friend Dillon Reisman, 27, were aiming a laser into house windows in Langley, Washington, in order to “cause alarm to anyone trying to sleep.” When confronted by police, Raden repeatedly aimed the laser beam into an officer’s face. Felony charges were not filed until November 18 2015.

In yet another incident, police said Raden was accused of using a laser and acid as weapons.

From the Chronicle, the San Juan Islander and Ars Technica. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story about the incident is here; an updated story with news about Raden’s arrest and the Coast Guard penalty is here. Additional details of Raden’s previous run-ins over misusing lasers can be found in an April 11 2016 HeraldNet story.

Ireland: Six months in jail for shining a laser pen at a police helicopter

Alan Armstrong, 35
Greenisland, County Antrim, Northern Ireland


On September 19 2015, Armstrong repeatedly aimed a green laser at a Police Service of Northern Ireland helicopter. At trial, he said he was annoyed by the aircraft flying over his house. The laser was aimed at least five times, one of which lasted about 30 seconds continuously on the helicopter.

The judge said Armstrong’s actions could have resulted in a crash, and thus warranted a prison sentence. He was sentenced around April 20 2016.

From the Belfast Telegraph

UK: 20 weeks in prison for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter

Philip Houghton, 25
Edison Grove, Hull, UK


Philip Houghton laser

On January 9 2016, Houghton aimed a £9 (USD $13) laser pen at a Humberside Police helicopter. He later pleaded guilty. On February 18 2016, he was sentenced at Hull Magistrates Court to 20 weeks in prison.

US: Six months in prison, 3 years probation for aiming a laser at a police helicopter

Johnny Alexander Quenga, 29
Fresno, California, US


Johnny Quenga laser

On March 15 2015, Quenga illuminated a Fresno Police Department helicopter with a green laser beam about six times over ten minutes. A patrol car sent to the location, to find the laser source, was broadsided by a civilian SUV. Both officers had serious injuries; the SUV occupants suffered minor injuries. When Quenga was found by other officers, he had been listening to police radios and knew they were looking for him.

In October 2015, Quenga pleaded guilty. On January 19 2016, Quenga was sentenced to six months in prison, and three years supervised release.

Quenga’s troubles may not be over. Ars Technica quoted prosecutor Karen Escobar as saying “We are still litigating the restitution portion of the case. In that regard, a hearing on restitution has been set for May 16. We are seeking the uninsured losses in connection with the accident of the first responders that Quenga was monitoring via his police radio scanner iPhone app."

US: Five years probation for Calif. teen who took selfie while aiming laser at police helicopter

Christian Palomino, 19
Oakland, California, US


On June 7 2014, Palomino aimed a laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter that had to break off a search to deal with the laser. According to the Contra Costa Times, Palomino was taking a selfie video during the incident: “In the video, Palomino yelled at the helicopter pilot, ‘Look at this laser!’ A woman can be heard in the background saying, ‘Don't do that! You know you could blind ... You('re) going to go to jail if you do that. Don't do that!’”

He was indicted August 28 2014, and later pleaded guilty to the crime.

On December 2 2015 Palomino was sentenced to five years probation, including six months of community confinement in a halfway house, 200 hours of community service, and not owning a laser pointer. He also will be required to educate people about the consequences of aiming laser pointers at aircraft.

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.

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.

US: Ohio man gets one month in prison, two years probation for lying about laser incident

Ronald E. Deal, Sr, 57
McComb, Ohio, US


Deal was sentenced on August 25 2014 to one month in prison followed by two years of probation. He had pleaded guilty to making a false statement or representation to a department or agency of the United States.

Between August 5 and 9 2012, he told investigators he did not know about a June 17 2012 incident where a laser pointer was aimed at an aircraft, and that he later falsely took the blame for the incident.

US: 45 days in jail, 18 months probation for aiming at police helicopter

Michael Rademacher, 27
Columbus, Ohio, US

On March 21 2013, Rademacher aimed a blue laser at a Columbus police helicopter “because he was bored.” One pilot said it was the brightest laser he had ever seen. The pilots were able to locate the source, and directed ground units to Rademacher’s home. He pleaded guilty in September 2013 to one felony count of possession of criminal tools; a more-serious charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft with a laser was dismissed as part of the plea agreement. On November 7 2013, Rademacher was sentenced to 45 days in the Franklin County jail and 18 months of probation. If he violates probation, he will be imprisoned for 12 months.

US: 5 days in jail, 3 years probation, 180 hours community service

Kimberly Rogers, 27
Compton, California, US


Pic 2011-09-26 at 2.01.54 PM
On September 23 2011, Rogers was arrested for illuminating a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter with a green laser. This came as the helicopter was searching for the source of a laser that illuminated a commercial airplane landing at Los Angeles International Airport.

According to a January 2014 article in Smithsonian Air & Space magazine, Rogers “pleaded no contest and was sentenced to five days in jail, three years probation, and 180 hours of community service.” The dates of the plea and the sentence are not known.

US: Jail, probation, community service for "bored" Kentucky man who aimed gunsight at police helicopter

Steven French, 50
Lexington, Kentucky, US


Steven French laser
On September 4 2013, French pleaded guilty in state court to second-degree wanton endangerment. He 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. 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.

US: 3 months jail, 7 months home supervision, 3 years probation

Daniel Dangler, 30
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

On April 10 2013, Dangler 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 on July 18 2012. He pleaded guilty on October 17 2012. Dangler still faces FAA civil charges that could result in a penalty up to $11,000.

UK: 6 months in young offenders institute, 140 hours of community service

Phillip Pearse, 20 and an unnamed male, 16
Newport, South Wales, UK
In 2003, Pearse and a teen pointed laser beams at trains pulling into a station in south Wales. Two drivers had temporary blindness; one was treated for temporary injury to his tear duct. The cost of the disruptions was estimated at £13,000. Pearse and the teen pleaded guilty to two charges of endangering the safety of railway passengers. Pearse was sentenced on June 20 2003 to six months in a young offender's institute. The teen was given 140 hours community punishment.

UK: 4 months in prison

Radu Moldovan, 28
Romanian migrant, working in UK

radu-moldovan

On August 16 2010, Moldovan illuminated an RAF Tornado jet for up to ten seconds. He pleaded guilty to culpably and recklessly endangering a military aircraft on September 16 2010.

US: 2 days in jail

Timothy Lyman, 25
Columbus, Ohio, US

On October 20 2010, Lyman aimed a laser pointer at a Columbus OH police helicopter. He pleaded guilty on March 15 2011 to a misdemeanor count of interfering with operation of an aircraft. Lyman apologized and said "I didn't understand what I did would have that effect." The judge sentenced Lyman to the two days in jail he had served.

US: 1 month in jail, 18 months probation, 1 month in sheriff's work program

Elvin Slater, 24
Chicago, Illinois, US

On March 17 2011, Slater and another person aimed a laser at a commercial aircraft and then at a police helicopter. Slater pleaded guilty on April 1 2011 for the misdemeanor of unlawful use of a weapon.

UK: 6 months in prison

Jonathan Quantrill, 21
North Shields, North Tyneside, UK

On August 22 2010, after drinking two cans of beer, Quantrill repeatedly aimed a laser at a Northumbria Police helicopter. He pleaded guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. At his sentencing April 15 2011, the judge said, "Others should know if they behave as you did they are likely to go to prison."

In addition to the 6 month prison term, Quantrill "had a dream of being in the airforce [RAF] but this conviction has already destroyed that.”

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: 6 months in jail, 100 hours of community service

Kevin Wayne Foster, 39
Shasta Lake, California, US



In December 2010, Foster aimed a laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter. Under a plea bargain, two felony charges were dropped (assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and discharging a laser). He could have faced four years in prison if convicted on the felonies.

Foster pleaded no contest to misdemeanors of interfering with an aircraft, and pointing a laser at a peace officer. He was sentenced June 20 2011 to time served (about 6 months) and was ordered to 100 hours of community service giving presentations on the dangers of laser pointers.

UK: 3 months in prison

David Taylor, 18
Newcastle, UK

On March 12 2011, Taylor aimed a green laser pen multiple times at a Northumbria Police helicopter. The judge said "This sort of behaviour is not a game or prank, it is extremely serious …. they are committing a criminal offence." Taylor was sentenced in July 2011 for recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft.

UK: 6 months in prison for lasers, plus 6 months for theft

Richard Anthony Oliver, 23
Newcastle, UK



On June 6 2011, Oliver aimed a laser pen at a Northumbria Police helicopter. The judge called Oliver "a dangerous idiot." Oliver was sentenced July 26 2011 for directing a light at an aircraft to distract a pilot.

UK: 6 months in prison

Islam Ali, 19
North Kensington (London), UK

On March 6, 2011, Ali lased a police helicopter "to see how far it would go." The judge stated “This was an extremely serious offence which could have ended in several fatalities.” Ali pleaded guilty June 24 to endangering the safety of an aircraft and was sentenced July 28 2011.

UK: 6 months in youth offender institution

Ross McDonnell-Jones, 21
Newport, Wales, UK

On October 12 2010, McDonnell-Jones used a laser pen to illuminate a police helicopter for about five minutes. The man had purchased the green laser the day before. He admitted aiming the laser outdoors but said he did not see the aircraft. He was sentenced in September 2011.

UK: 6 months in jail

Wayne Junior French, 19
Birmingham, UK
On September 11 2011, French illuminated a commercial flight. A West Midlands Air Support helicopter was sent to investigate and was also lased by French. He pleaded guilty to lasing the police helicopter and on October 20 2011 was sentenced to six months in jail. French's lawyer said he had learning difficulties and was "immature."

UK: 4 months in jail

David Checkley, 21
Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside UK
On October 22 2011, Checkley lased a St Helens police air support helicopter. He pleaded guilty to “acting recklessly or negligently in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft”. On November 23 2011, Checkley was sentenced to four months in jail, and his laser pen was destroyed by police.

US: 10 days in jail plus 3 years probation

Clark James Gable III, 22 at time of arrest
Hollywood, California US

Pic 2013-03-26 at 9.07.10 PM

On July 28 2011, Gable was arrested for aiming a green laser at a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter. On December 8 2011, he pleaded guilty 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.

At sentencing on January 12 2012, he received 10 days in jail plus three years probation. He had been expected to receive 200 hours of community work service, but that provision appears to have been dropped since the December 8 guilty plea.

The case received widespread publicity because Gable is the grandson of actor Clark Gable, famed as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind and for appearing in 66 other movies.

UK: 6 months in jail for six-minute lasing of helicopter

Alexander Nicholls, 23
Weston-super-Mare, Avon, UK

Alexander Nicholls laser

On May 12 2012, Nicholls aimed a blue laser pen at a police helicopter for about six minutes. On July 16 2012, he pleaded guilty to one count of recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or people in an aircraft. He was sentenced to six months in jail.

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.