Two Orlando Men Convicted of Aiming Laser Pointers at Aircraft
ORLANDO, FL—United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that a federal jury yesterday found Shannan Lee Winemiller (21, Orlando) guilty of knowingly aiming the beam of a laser pointer at a Southwest Boeing 737 aircraft and an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Rolando Espinoza (23, Orlando), who requested a bench trial, was also found guilty of the same offenses by United States District Judge Roy B. Dalton, Jr. Both men face a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. Their sentencing hearings are scheduled for February 1, 2015.
According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, during the late evening hours of July 6 and the early morning hours of July 7, 2015, Espinoza and Winemiller were having a competition with two green laser pointers to see who could strike the most aircraft. Shortly after 11:00 p.m., they struck the cockpit of a Southwest Boeing 737 passenger aircraft on approach to the Orlando International Airport. About an hour later, they struck the cockpit of an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter that was in search of them. Both individuals were arrested by 1:00 a.m. on July 7, 2015.
This case was investigated by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tiffany L. Cummins.
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 pointer 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.