The FBI says it arrested a man in Portland, Ore., for allegedly pointing a green laser at a JetBlue and United Airlines flight in October.
Stephen Bukucs, 39, was arrested in Portland on Friday evening, October 18, 2013, on charges of aiming a laser pointer at two aircraft. Bukucs plead not guilty today in court. Knowingly aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a felony offense under federal law, carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to Oregon Public Broadcasting coverage of the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen F. Peifer told Magistrate Judge Dennis J. Hubel that Bukucs admitted pointing a green laser light at aircraft at least 25 times and said he did it "for excitement, for thrills." After aiming the laser at the aircraft, Bukucs would go inside and listen for a response on a police radio scanner, authorities said. "His conduct in this case was extremely dangerous," Peifer said. "It literally endangered hundreds of people."
Upon his arrest the FBI found five firearms in Bukucs' home, including one that he uses for work. Though the judge released Bukucs and allowed him to resume his job, he must relinquish control of his four personal guns to his mother.
Bukucs' lawyer, Mark Cogan, said his client is addicted to pain killers due to a workplace injury and has problems with depression, and the judge ordered a mental health evaluation. Bukucs has no criminal record. Cogan said he does not know why Bukucs had the laser pointer or what he used it for.
The government takes the still growing number laser pointing incidents seriously. You may recall earlier this year a California man was sentenced to 30 months in prison for shining a laser at two aircraft.
According to the FBI Adam Gardenhire, 19, was arrested on March 29, 2012 and named in a two-count indictment filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles that said he pointed the beam of a laser at a private plane and a police helicopter that responded to the report.
Gardenhire later in 2012 plead guilty to one count of a federal indictment that charged him with pointing the beam of a laser at aircraft. The federal statute used to charge Gardenhire is part of legislation signed into law in 2012 by President Obama that makes it a federal crime to deliberately point a laser at an aircraft. The indictment marked the second time a violation of the new statute had been charged in the United States. Just last week a federal grand jury in California returned three indictments charging three men and one woman under the federal law the U.S. Attorney and FBI's Sacramento Field Office said.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it has taken enforcement action against 28 people charged with aiming a laser device at an aircraft since June 2011. The FAA last May said the number of reported laser incidents nationwide had risen for the fifth consecutive year to 3,592 in 2011. Pointing a laser at an aircraft can cause temporary blindness or make airliner pilots take evasive measures to avoid the laser light.
The FAA says the increase in annual laser reports is likely due to a number of factors, including the availability of inexpensive laser devices on the Internet; increased power levels that enable lasers to reach aircraft at higher altitudes; more pilot reporting of laser strikes; and the introduction of green and blue lasers, which are more easily seen than red lasers.
According to other reports that FBI has its Joint Terrorism Task Force looking into two laser attacks on airliners approaching LaGuardia Airport.
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