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US: Probation and fine for "bored" man who aimed laser pointer at helicopter during Milwaukee protests
The laser strikes occurred seven times between May 31 and June 7 2021 in the summer of 2020 during protests in Milwaukee. An FBI surveillance airplane and a Wisconsin National Guard helicopter were targeted. The FBI crew began wearing anti-laser goggles to protect against bright laser light. A camera on board their aircraft was used to determine the laser's location. Ground officers then went in and arrested 39-year-old Jeremiah Belen, a resident of Milwaukee.
Belen apologized to the judge during his sentencing. He said he had the laser for astronomy pointing with his two children. He aimed at the aircraft because he was bored after being laid off during the COVID pandemic.
Prosecutors said they wanted the felony conviction to "send a message" that aiming at aircraft, especially during civil unrest, is dangerous.
Belen could have received up to five years in prison for his action, but was given probation due to no previous criminal history and having found a job since his arrest.
From 715 Newsroom, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via MSN
Malta: UPDATED - Amateur astronomer admits aiming laser at aircraft; says it could not have caused a problem
Taking the stand in his own defense, he told the court that the AirMalta light would have hit the side or tail, but not the cockpit, based on the aircraft’s flight path. He sad that as the son of a retired air traffic controller, he was aware of traffic and flight paths.
In addition, the laser’s range was stated in a brochure as 3 km, while the aircraft was 9 km away from Camilleri’s position.
The prosecution noted that the brochure warned against aiming at aircraft as it could disrupt the flight and was illegal. The prosecutor objected to Camilleri as he was not an expert but was expressing “mere opinion”.
The judge scheduled the next hearing for February 25 2014. An independent court expert will be appointed to provide technical terms and assistance.
From Malta Today
UPDATED - June 4 2014: A web search for “David Camilleri laser” has not turned up any results. The most recent items are stories of his December 11 2013 court appearance. So the outcome of this case does not seem to be available online.
In court in early October, David Camilleri of Rabat was described as a “semi-professional astronomer” who was aiming at stars. He said airplanes were not his target. Camilleri’s lawyer said the case was “being blown out of proportion.” He argued that if lasers were capable of bringing down aircraft, terrorists would use them to cause crashes. He also noted that footballer Lionel Messi was able to score despite having 10 lasers pointed at him during a match.
The trial is ongoing as of October 4 2013, so the outcome is not yet known.
From the Malta Independent
His lawyer said Saulnier had an interest in astronomy, and was “not thinking about the consequences, he’s just thinking and wondering whether his beam can hit what he thought was the belly of the airplane.... In hindsight, he knows the seriousness of it and accepts responsibility...”
From the Calgary Herald
UPDATE July 28 2011: Representatives of the Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada said Saulnier was not a RASC member, and did not represent responsible amateur astronomy. More details are here.
31-year-old Erick Alberto Medina was arrested. He told officers that he did not point at the helicopter but instead had been using a telescope equipped with a laser pointer for sighting.
A police spokesperson said “It’s not a game. It’s not a joke. It’s an assault.”
Earlier, on May 22, a Glendale police helicopter was illuminated and officers made an arrest, as reported here.
From the Glendale News-Press
UPDATE, July 8 2011: Medina was arraigned in court. A news report did not list the exact charge against him, but did say that “he faces a possible three-year prison term if convicted.” From the Los Angeles Daily News
UPDATE 2, July 12 2011: Medina pleaded not guilty to one felony count of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. The court date was set for July 20. From the Glendale News-Press
The judge called Gautieri a “liar” for claiming that he was using the laser to follow stars.
Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey said “Let the sentencing today send a message that this behavior will not be tolerated.” U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said “As a direct result of his reckless and irresponsible behavior, the defendant will now have several years to think about how he endangered public safety by shining a laser into a helicopter pilot's eyes.”
From NBC Philadelphia, CBS Philly and an FBI press release
Saulnier said he bought the $100 laser for his work as a contractor and as an amateur astronomer. He cooperated with police and was “remorseful and took full responsibility for his actions” according to a police spokesman.
From the Calgary Herald