Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Man gets jail for pointing lasers at aircraft

Michael Cerise

PHOENIX (CBS5) - A Phoenix man has been sentenced to 90 days in jail for pointing a laser at several aircraft in November. 

 Michael Cerise, 47, also faces three years of supervised probation.

Cerise pointed a laser at two commercial planes and a police helicopter as they were passing over the Phoenix metro area, injuring three pilots.

"The consequences of this defendant's reckless actions could have been unbelievably catastrophic to passengers in the air and residents on the ground," said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. "If you do it, we will catch you and punish you."

On Nov. 9 at about 9 p.m., the Phoenix Police Department Air Unit responded to a call of lasers being pointed from someone on the ground at passing commercial aircraft in the area of 86th Avenue and Highland.

When the Air Unit arrived over the area, the pilot was hit with a green laser, causing temporary partial blindness, said Maricopa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jerry Cobb. Another officer in the aircraft was able to spot a man armed with the laser standing at his patio door. When police arrived at the home, Cerise initially denied that he pointed any lasers at the sky. He eventually produced a green laser which he had hidden in his couch cushions, Cobb said.

In a subsequent interview, Cerise claimed he bought the green laser at a yard sale and was curious to see how far its beam could reach, Cobb said. He ultimately admitted pointing the laser at the sky more than once on the evening of the incident, Cobb said.

Prosecutors were able to prove that Cerise struck two other aircraft with the green laser that evening, a U.S. Airways flight carrying about 200 passengers and a Frontier Airlines flight carrying roughly 130 passengers. The U.S. Airways flight, which was on final approach, was forced to alter its course by 90 degrees in order to avoid the laser strikes, Cobb said. 

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