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US: Philadelphia man jailed 3 months for July 2012 lasing of news helicopter

Daniel Dangler, 30, of Philadelphia 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. This sentence was handed down as a result of the February 14 2012 federal legislation making it illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft or its flight path.

Pic 2013-04-11 at 12.06.30 AM
A photo shows the beam aimed by Daniel Dangler

On July 18 2012, a photographer in the helicopter saw the cockpit light up with a green light. He told the pilot not to look towards the beam. The beam location was identified and police officers on the ground questioned Dangler. According to prosecutors, Dangler said he didn’t realize the beam would harm anyone or that it was a crime.

He pleaded guilty on October 17 2012 and was sentenced April 10 2013.

The FAA has a separate civil case pending which could result in a fine of up to $11,000.

Philly.com reported that Dangler is “an unemployed high-school dropout with convictions for burglary, driving under the influence and marijuana possession.” The news source also quoted the photographer, Alasdair Nugent, as saying “It is almost the same as pointing a gun at a person.”

From MyFoxPhilly.com, Philly.com, Philly.com more detailed story, and CBSlocal.com. Note: MyFoxPhilly identified the helicopter as “SkyFOX”, Philly.com called it “Fox29” while CBSlocal identified it as “Chopper 3 HD”. From news coverage, it appears to be the same helicopter.

For the text of the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release, click the “Read More…” link.

Press release from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Man Sentenced For Laser Strike Incident
April 10, 2013

PHILADELPHIA - Daniel F. Dangler, 30, of Philadelphia, was sentenced today to three months in jail followed by seven months of home confinement for aiming the beam of a laser at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States. Dangler aimed a laser pointer at a Philadelphia television news helicopter on July 18, 2012. He pleaded guilty on October 17, 2012. U.S. District Court Judge John R. Padova also ordered three years of supervised release.

The news helicopter was on assignment when the news photographer noticed the helicopter cockpit light up with a bright green light. He instructed the pilot not to look in the direction of the beam. A green laser beam is more powerful than a red laser beam but either can cause retina damage to the crew of an aircraft. The helicopter crew was able to identify the house from which the laser originated, uniformed officers responded and Dangler was questioned. Initially he denied using the laser but, on a subsequent interview with FBI agents, he admitted to knowingly shining the laser beam at the helicopter.

On February 14, 2012, President Barack Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which modernizes the nation’s aviation system. This Act establishes a new criminal offense for aiming the beam of a laser at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft. The statute was enacted in response to a growing number of incidents of pilots being distracted or even temporarily blinded by laser beams.

The FAA also has a civil case pending against Dangler in which Dangler could be fined up to $11,000.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Philadelphia Police Department. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Pedro de la Torre.

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PATTY HARTMAN, Media Contact, 215-861-8525