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US: Judge withdraws from Florida case because felony charge is too harsh for "an idiot, not a criminal"

A federal judge refused to sentence an Orlando man who pleaded guilty on January 20 2011 to interfering with the operation of an aircraft. U.S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp said that Frank Newton Anderson was “an idiot, not a criminal” when he aimed a laser pointer at a sheriff’s helicopter on April 13 2010.

Sharp withdrew from the case because prosecutors would not reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. The judge felt that this was a more appropriate charge and would deter any future actions. Sharp also pointed out that a felony conviction would mean that Anderson could never work in his field. (He previously owned a security company which closed when he lost his license.) The case was reassigned to a new judge.

NewsChief.com (The Anderson news starts on page 2 of the 3-page article.)

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.