Two Men Arraigned on Federal Charge for Aiming Laser Pointer at Aircraft
ALBUQUERQUE – Michael James Saavedra, 22, of Albuquerque, N.M., and Dylan James Demone, 23, of Rio Rancho, N.M., were arraigned today on an indictment charging them with unlawfully aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. Both men entered not guilty pleas and were released on conditions of release pending trial.
The indictment, which was filed on May 7, 2014, alleges that on Aug. 21, 2013, Saavedra and Demone unlawfully and knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at an Albuquerque Police Department helicopter that was in flight.
If convicted, Saavedra and Demone each face a maximum statutory penalty of five years in federal prison. The charge in the indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed to be innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
The case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI with assistance from the Albuquerque Police Department and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles L. Barth.
This case was brought pursuant to a Laser Threat Awareness Pilot Program established by the FBI in collaboration with the Air Line Pilots Association International and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to raise awareness of aircraft laser illumination threats. The pilot program was initiated on Feb. 11, 2014, in a dozen U.S. cities, including Albuquerque, that have reported numerous laser strikes, in order to educate the public about the risks posed to aviation safety when laser devises with beams of concentrated energy are pointed at aircraft. It also seeks to raise awareness about the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which was signed into law on Feb. 12, 2012, and established a new criminal law that prohibits the aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft that is in flight.