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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Nebraska

Monday, July 22, 2013

Omaha Man Given 24 Month Prison Sentence For Pointing Laser at Aircraft

United States Attorney Deborah R. Gilg announced that Michael A. Smith, age 30 of Omaha, Nebraska, was sentenced in federal court in Omaha for shining a laser pointer at a police helicopter.  The Honorable John Gerrard sentenced Smith to 24 months in prison to be followed by a 3 year term of supervised release.   

On April 24, 2013, Smith was convicted by a federal jury, following a 2 day trial, for striking an Omaha Police Department helicopter with a laser pointer in Northwest Omaha.  The police helicopter was responding to a Southwest Airlines commercial flight which reported that it had been struck by a laser one hour earlier. 

Smith is the first person indicted in the District of Nebraska under a new federal law making it a federal crime to target aircrafts with lasers.  According to the Federal Aviation Administration, lasers can temporarily blind a pilot and make it impossible to safely land an aircraft.  Smith faced a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison. 

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Air Marshal Service, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Omaha Police Department.

Updated January 29, 2015