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Calif. Man Faces Fed Prison Time For Pointing Laser at Commercial Jet Pilots Landing at Airport

JetBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A California man could get serious prison time after becoming the first person in the nation to be convicted at trial of pointing a laser at commercial planes as they were about to land.

Dana Christian Welch, 37, of Orange County, was convicted last week by a federal jury in Los Angeles of shooting a green laser at two commercial planes at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif. in May 2008, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

He was convicted on two counts, each which carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Sentencing is set for Sept. 15.

Evidence during trial showed that Welch pointed a hand held laser at two Boeing 7-series jets,

In another instance, he pointed the laser at pilots of an Alaska Airline flight, “causing one pilot to duck under a glare shield…and the other pilot to delay a critical turn necessary to land the plane,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Several people have pleaded guilty to similar offenses, but Welch was the first to be convicted in a trial.

“This conviction should make clear to those contemplating the targeting of cockpits with lasers that such behavior is not only dangerous, but criminal, with serious consequences attached,” Salvador Hernandez, assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles FBI said in a prepared statement.

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