Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Guy who lasered airplanes.. appropriate punishment?
I just looked up the story in the Star Ledger... this jacka$$ not only lied to the FBI about being behind the plane incident, but also get this... he blamed his 7 year old daughter for shining the laser.
Jerseyan charged for pointing laser at aircraft
Morris man denied, then admitted helicopter strike and Tetorboro plane hit
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
BY RUDY LARINI
A Parsippany man who admitted shining a laser beam at a Port Authority police helicopter on New Year's Eve after first blaming his 7-year-old daughter has been charged with pointing the laser at a private plane approaching Teterboro Airport two nights earlier.
David Banach, 38, is charged with two federal offenses -- violating a provision of the Patriot Act that makes it illegal to interfere with the operator of a mass transportation vehicle and lying to the FBI.
His arrest is the first in a recent rash of similar laser-pointing incidents across the country, according to an FBI spokesman in Washington, D.C.
Banach's attorney, Gina Mendola-Longarzo, yesterday denied there was any "willful misconduct" on Banach's part, but would not say whether he intentionally aimed the laser at the aircraft. She also criticized federal authorities for using the Patriot Act to prosecute her client.
"I would think they would want to devote their time and resources to real terrorists," she said.
Federal authorities in New Jersey said Banach's arrest, while not related to any terrorist threat, demonstrates the federal government's commitment to investigate and prosecute incidents that threaten public safety.
"We have to send a clear message to the public that there is no harmless mischief when it comes to airplanes," said U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie. "Mr. Banach's actions as alleged in the criminal complaint put innocent lives at risk. That is illegal and unacceptable."
Laser beams can temporarily blind or disorient pilots and possibly cause a plane to crash, especially during critical periods such as takeoffs or landings.
"It is important that we do everything we possibly can to ensure the safety of our nation's air carriers," Joseph Billy Jr., special agent in charge of the New Jersey FBI office, said in announcing Banach's arrest. "While this particular incident was not terrorism-related, the FBI considers this an extremely serious matter as not only was the safety of the pilot and passengers placed in jeopardy by Banach's actions, (but) so were countless innocent victims on the ground in this densely populated area.
"What was done was foolhardy and negligent," Billy added.
Banach appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk in Newark yesterday and was released on bail of a $100,000 unsecured appearance bond, which requires no posting of cash or property. The pilot endangerment charge he faces is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Lying to the FBI carries a maximum five-year sentence and $250,000 fine.
The stocky, blond Banach, accompanied yesterday by his wife, Allison, and Mendola-Longarzo, would only say "No comment" when approached by reporters and photographers as he left the courthouse.
Mendola-Longarzo said Banach was "in a state of shock, frankly.
"I think my client is a very sympathetic person," she added. "He's an average guy."
Mendola-Longarzo said Banach works for a telecommunications and fiber optics firm in the Boonton area, but she did not know its name.
The incident last Wednesday attracted widespread media coverage in this post-9/11 era of heightened aviation security.
The pilot of a corporate Cessna Citation on approach to Teterboro Airport at 5:30 p.m. reported that a laser was aimed into his cockpit as he flew at an altitude of about 3,000 feet. The pilot safely landed the aircraft with 13 people aboard at Teterboro.
In investigating the incident two days later, a Port Authority police helicopter with detectives and the Cessna's pilot aboard returned to the area where the pilot saw the laser beam Wednesday, authorities said. While circling above, the helicopter was the target of a laser beam and a crewman then shined a spotlight on the house where the beam originated.
Police on the ground descended on the house and began questioning Banach, who initially said his 7-year-old daughter pointed the laser at the helicopter. Banach later admitted pointing the laser at the helicopter, but "adamantly denied" any involvement in the Teterboro incident.
He then was taken to FBI headquarters, where he admitted he was responsible for both incidents after taking a polygraph examination and being questioned further.
Banach purchased the green, cigar-sized Jasper laser on the Internet from a firm known as Bigha in Corvallis, Ore., according to company's marketing director, Noah Acres. The lasers can be used for recreational purposes, such as star-gazing, as a pointer for lectures and presentations or as a sight-lining tool in construction. They also can be mounted on firearms for aiming, he said.
He said the Jasper has a power level of 3.5 milliwatts -- explaining that a milliwatt is one-thousandth of a watt -- but has a range of up to 25,000 feet because it is concentrated into a "tiny, precise beam."
Acres said he was not concerned about any adverse impact on the laser business as a result of the rash of similar recent incidents involving lasers pointed at aircraft.
"It is of concern to me that I sold something to somebody who didn't behave too well with it," he said. "Anybody acting irresponsibly with anything, whether it's a laser or a hammer, can cause trouble."
Federal authorities are investigating recent reports of lasers aimed at aircraft in Chicago; Cleveland; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Colorado Springs, Colo., and Medford, Ore., but Bill Carter, an FBI spokesman in Washington, D.C., said he was not aware of any other arrests.
The president of the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations yesterday criticized the government's response to the laser-aircraft incidents.
"Pilots are deeply troubled that the lessons of 9/11 continue to go unheeded," Capt. Jon Safley said, noting that a November government warning on the possible use of lasers against aircraft by terrorists was not made available to the pilots until last week.
"Pilots are very concerned about the apparent laser attacks on passenger airlines during the past several weeks, and even more concerned that they have not been given adequate warning about these incidents," Safley said. "We call on the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct an immediate review and to provide flight crews with advice on how to deal with this dangerous situation."
Staff writer Ron Marsico contributed to this report.