Man Who Pointed Laser Light at Commercial Jets at McCarran Sentenced to Eight Months in Jail
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 11, 2012|
LAS VEGAS—A man who pointed a green laser light at three inflight aircraft at McCarran International Airport in August 2011 and then shined the light on a police helicopter was sentenced today to eight months in jail and three years of supervised release, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
Michael Viera-Crespo, Jr., 28, who pleaded guilty in March to attempted destruction of an aircraft, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Miranda Du. Viera-Crespo has been in custody since he was arrested on March 27, 2012.
“These powerful lasers have the potential to harm a pilot’s vision and affect their ability to safely operate an aircraft,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “We take these cases seriously because of the potential for harm and the risk posed by such criminal conduct to pilots, their passengers, and the public.”
On August 31, 2011, between 9:37 p.m. and 9:52 p.m., Viera-Crespo, who was standing on the ground outside an apartment complex near McCarran International Airport, shined a strong and very bright green laser light into the cockpit of at least three commercial aircraft that were attempting to land at the airport. After the airport reported the incidents to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), LVMPD flew a helicopter to the area where the laser light was originating, and a laser then beamed at the police helicopter. LVMPD contacted patrol units on the ground, which located Viera-Crespo parked at an apartment complex on Tamarus Street and shining the green laser light. Viera-Crespo was arrested by LVMPD officers at the scene. Viera-Crespo stated in his plea agreement that he shined the laser light at the aircraft to interfere with the pilots and that he acted with reckless disregard for the safety of the persons on the aircraft.
Laser pointing incidents involving aircraft have risen dramatically in the last several years, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Lasers pointed at an aircraft’s cockpit can temporarily diminish eyesight or blind pilots in planes near the ground, according to FAA research. Some industrial lasers are capable of damaging the eye. In February 2012, a new federal law was passed, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, specifically prohibiting the aiming of the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft or in its flight path.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Patrick Walsh.