News and Press Releases

Jacksonville Man Indicted For Shining Laser At Police Helicopter

October 9, 2012

Jacksonville, Florida - United States Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces the unsealing of an indictment charging John Tyler Pennywitt (41, Jacksonville) with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. If convicted on all counts, Pennywitt faces a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine.

Pursuant to the indictment, Pennywitt is alleged to have shined a laser, during nighttime hours, into the cockpit of a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office patrol helicopter, first on June 3, 2012, and again on June 4, 2012. It a criminal offense to knowingly aim a beam of a laser pointer into an aircraft. No one was reportedly injured during the alleged incidents.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the United States Department of Transportation and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay Taylor.

On Feb. 14, President Barack Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which modernizes the nation's aviation system. This Act establishes a new criminal offense for aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft. The statute was enacted in response to a growing number of incidents of pilots being distracted or even temporarily blinded by laser beams.









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