Portland Resident Sentenced to Six Months in Federal Prison for Aiming a Laser Pointer at Commercial Aircraft
PORTLAND, OR—Stephen Francis Bukucs, 41, of Portland, was sentenced to six months in federal prison yesterday by U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman for two felony counts of aiming a laser pointer at commercial jetliners as they approached Portland International Airport for night landings in October 2013. Following the prison term, Bukucs must serve three years of supervised release.
On July 15, 2014, Bukucs pleaded guilty to aiming his green laser device at United Airlines Flight 1406 and Jet Blue Flight 1205 as they flew over his apartment in Northeast Portland on October 13, 2013. The laser struck both aircraft and distracted the pilots during their final descents to Portland. Bukucs confessed to the FBI that, over several months, he had targeted up to 25 aircraft and that he did so for entertainment and as a “cat-and-mouse” game with the police who pursued him. His arrest occurred after intense air and ground surveillance by FBI agents and police officers. Investigators reported over 100 laser strikes from the vicinity of defendant’s apartment in 2013, the government stated to the court.
Bukucs, a native of Portland, worked for Delta Airlines in the Portland ground crew from 1997 to 2004. From 2007 until his arrest, he worked for a private security firm, providing armed security in Portland and Vancouver, Washington.
Among his findings as part of the sentence, Judge Mosman found that “the offense involved recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft.” The government noted at sentencing that aiming a laser at aircraft always jeopardizes aircraft safety, since it may impair pilots’ vision by causing glare or flash blindness. The action can force pilots to divert their eyes from their flight or landing path, startle them, and reduce their ability to observe obstacles.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI, the Portland Police Bureau, the Port of Portland Police and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen F. Peifer.