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Press Release

Man Pleads Guilty to Aiming Laser Pointer at Two Commercial Aircraft

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Marshall man pleaded guilty yesterday to aiming the beam of a laser pointer at two aircraft in flight.

According to court documents, Nicholas Pifer, 45, struck the cockpit of two commercial aircraft with the beam of a laser pointer. Both aircraft were in the process of landing at Washington Dulles International Airport, but managed to land safely. All four pilots reported seeing the cabin illuminated with a green light.

Pifer pleaded guilty to one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when sentenced on December 21, 2018. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Division, FBI Washington Field Office, and Michelle McVicker, Principal Assistant Inspector General for Investigations at the U.S. Department of Transportation, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney David A. Peters and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Clark are prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:18-cr-282.


Joshua Stueve
Director of Communications

Updated October 2, 2018