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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.

Welch had been found guilty in April 2009 of aiming a home-made laser at a United Airlines jet carrying more than 180 people, and at an Alaska Airlines plane with more than 80 people on board, as they came in for landing at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif., on May 21, 2008, The Orange County Register reported.

The federal jury acquitted Welch of charges he tried to interfere with the pilots of a helicopter and a Delta Air Lines flight, the Register said.

There have been several defendants who have pleaded guilty to federal charges of pointing lasers at airplanes, but Welch was the first in the United States to be convicted of interfering with pilots with laser beams, the U.S. attorney's office said.

From UPI.com and Orange Police Department

UPDATE: City News Service added additional details: The laser beam struck a United pilot in the eye, causing "flash blindness," Garnett said. When Welch pointed the laser at the Alaska plane, one pilot ducked under a glare shield and the other pilot delayed a critical turn necessary to land the plane.

From NBC Los Angeles