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US: $227,500 settlement for Bronx man cleared of aiming lasers at New York airplanes

In April 2019, Frank Egan, 36, who had been falsely accused of aiming a laser pointer at airplanes landing at LaGuardia Airport in New York was awarded a $227,500 settlement from New York City.

On March 9 2015, a New York Police Department helicopter was searching for the source of a laser beam that had been aimed at airplanes flying in and out of LaGuardia. They saw a beam coming from Frank Egan's apartment, located about 10 miles from the airport. Ground units found a "Laser 303" inside. Police said Egan admitted it was his laser and he had used it that evening — but also said he had not aimed it at aircraft. He said he had been asleep in the apartment.

On March 13 2015 during a court hearing Egan, his roommate and future brother-in-law revealed on the stand that he was the one who aimed the laser at aircraft. Elehecer Balaguer, 54 said "Frank didn't have nothing to do with it. I was the one that did it. I didn't mean to cause any harm." Balaguer also said the laser was his; that he had purchased in while on vacation in Florida. According to Egan’s lawyer, Egan never told the police he used the laser, contrary to the police statement after Egan’s arrest.

On May 5 2015 Balaguer pleaded guilty to aiming a laser at an airplane in return for prosecutors recommending a minimum sentence of two years in prison (he could have been sentenced up to five years). The judge, however, noted Balaguer's "psychiatric history and … his apparent lack of wrongful intent."

In September 2015 Balaguer was sentenced to time served, after receiving a diagnosis of terminal liver cancer. He has since died.

In his lawsuit against New York City, Egan said that police falsely claimed that Egan had admitted owning the laser pointer. Egan said his picture was widely spread in the media, his reputation had suffered, and his wedding and honeymoon were disrupted by the arrest.

A Law Department spokesman said "…it was in the city's best interest to settle this case."

From the New York Daily News. Previous LaserPointerSafety coverage of the arrest and the case can be found here.

US: UPDATED - Orlando man acquitted of aiming at sheriff's helicopter

A 23-year-old Orlando man was charged in late October 2012, with aiming a laser into the cockpit of a Seminole (Florida) County Sheriff's Department helicopter on July 17 2012. He faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for the federal offense.

From SFGate.com and Catholic Online

UPDATED May 3 2013: The man was acquitted January 8 2013 in U.S. District Court . He wrote to LaserPointerSafety.com in May, asking that his name be removed from the above article, due to it causing difficulty when looking for work. We have removed his name and the link URLs out of courtesy, since he was acquitted. The acquittal judgment, with his name redacted, can be viewed here.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION from LaserPointerSafety.com: On May 3 2013, I spoke with the person; for convenience, I will call him "John Doe." The following is his account, based on his perspective.

On July 17 2012 he was on the phone. As he talked, he idly swung his 5 milliwatt green laser pointer back and forth in the sky. He was not aiming at anything, it was just on and swinging.

Later, a police officer came to him saying that a sheriff's department helicopter had said they saw a laser from his location. She asked if he had a laser. Doe said yes, and showed her how he had used it. She felt it was an accident and left. He did not have to surrender the laser.

In August, two FBI agents came to see him. An agent said, "You are being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, as a threat to the United States."

He was charged with a federal felony in late October 2012. When it came to trial on January 8 2013, there were police officers, plus the two FBI agent, and federal prosecutor. They showed a ten-minute video from the helicopter. Doe said you could not see the beam, just a dot that looks like any other light on the ground, which at one point got brighter.

The trial lasted about three hours. The judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence, and he was formally acquitted.

Doe did say, "Definitely people should be very careful as these lasers are not toys, but It would be one thing if my intent was malicious and I had a very powerful laser. Then, calling this a felony and having a five-year penalty would be justified for a high powered laser. There needs to more public awareness on the issue.”

UK: August 2011 laser case thrown out due to insufficient evidence

Charges against Nikhil Vadher, 23, were dismissed on June 7 2012 after a court found insufficient evidence proving that he had aimed a laser at a police helicopter.

On August 9 2011, a three-person crew was patrolling over Crawley, West Sussex. The pilot testified that the crew was dazzled three times by “the sort of light that could only have been a laser. I have been subjected to a number of laser attacks.” Camera footage shown in court displayed only a small flash. Vadher’s attorney said that the flash could not be traced to any particular house. He said that even if the light had come from Vadher’s house, there was no evidence that any shining was intentional. Vadher said there was a light coming from his laptop, which was next to his open bedroom window.

After hearing both sides, the judge agreed there was no evidence of the crime, or that Vadher was the person who committed any crime.

Vader told the Crawley News that his life had been on hold since his arrest on a charge of directing a light at an aircraft in flight to dazzle or distract the pilot.

From This Is Sussex. The original arrest story from September 7 2011 is here.

UK: Laser charges dropped against 3 Bristol teens due to lack of evidence

Charges against three Bristol-area teenagers for aiming a laser beam at a police helicopter were dropped March 19 2012, due to a “lack of sufficient evidence.” The three had been accused of directing or shining a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle or distract the pilot, in the February 14 2012 incident. Released were 19-year-olds Mitchell Saint of Hartcliffe and Daniel Nurse of Fishponds, and 18-year-old Daniel Evans of Speedwell.

From This is Bristol

New Zealand: UPDATED - Laser charges dropped because of "good character"

A New Zealand man had charges of endangering transport dropped because of his “good character” and personal circumstances. James Paul Burton had been arrested for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter in December 2010. He was 19 at the time of his arrest.

His lawyer successfully argued that a conviction put Burton’s career plans at risk, as well as his application for New Zealand residency. The judge agreed, stating that the consequences for Burton outweighed the seriousness of the charges. Charges were dropped on October 25 2011.

From
Auckland Now. LaserPointerSafety.com previously reported on Burton’s case on September 17 2011.

Ireland: Man found innocent of "recklessly" illuminating garda helicopter

A jury has found a Tallaght man not guilty of endangerment in a September 12 2009 incident where a garda (police) helicopter pilot was dazzled with a laser pen. During the incident, the helicopter pilot took his hands off the controls in order to block out the green laser beams, which tracked the helicopter. In addition, a fellow crew member said she suffered pain in her eyes and temporary vision loss.

When arrested, Anthony Gaffney, 25, told gardai that he did not realize the laser hazard: “I wasn’t trying to dazzle the pilot. I definitely didn’t mean to cause any hassle. I apologise for wasting police time”.

He was charged with “intentionally or recklessly engaging in conduct creating a substantial risk of death or serious injury to another”. During the two-day trial, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court Judge Patricia Ryan instructed the jury that the State’s case was not that Gaffney acted intentionally, but that he acted recklessly. She then read the legal definition: “conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk.”

The jury deliberated for an hour and a half before returning a not guilty verdict.

From BreakingNews.ie (before the verdict), and from Herald.ie and RTÉ (after the verdict)