Rhode Island Man Indicted For Lasering Airborne Commercial Aircraft


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Rhode Island Man Indicted For Lasering Airborne Commercial Aircraft

By Bill Goldston

September 24, 2010 - Joseph Aquino, 31, of Warwick, R.I., was indicted by a federal grand jury and arraigned Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Providence on charges of willfully interfering with the safe operation of an airborne commercial aircraft and endangering the safety of the passengers and crew.

Aquino was indicted on charges he interfered with the safe operation of an aircraft and endangered the passengers and crew on September 15, 2010, when he allegedly illuminated the cockpit of an incoming commercial flight on final approach to T.F. Green Airport with a laser light, momentarily blinding the pilot.

U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha was joined at a news conference today at T.F. Green State Airport by federal, state, and local law enforcement and aviation agencies; the U.S. Coast Guard; and a representative of the International Pilots Association to highlight the dramatic increase in the number of aircraft lasering incidents in Rhode Island, New England, and across the nation. They also addressed the cooperative efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement and aviation agencies and prosecutors to investigate these incidents, and arrest and prosecute those responsible.


According to figures provided by the FBI, in 2008, approximately 1,000 instances of lasering aircraft were reported nationwide. In comparison, through August of this year, 1,700 incidents have occurred around the country. In Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, 66 total incidents were reported from January of 2009 through August of this year. Seventeen of those were in Rhode Island.

At Thursday?s news conference, U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha said, ?Let there be no mistake: We take these alleged violations of federal law very seriously. The safety of our nation?s airports, and everyone who flies in and out of them, is of critical importance. The type of conduct alleged here, as detailed in the affidavit filed in connection with the initial federal arrest of Mr. Aquino, is no joke. It is no harmless prank. It endangers lives, and unfortunately, there have been similar lasering incidents in this area and around the country.?

Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI?s Boston Field Office added, "most often, lasers are pointed at aircraft during critical phases of flights?while they are at low altitude when taking off or preparing to land. Any brief distraction in the cockpit during this time can be catastrophic.


?Each time a laser is pointed at aircraft?military or civilian?the safety of the crew, passengers, and those on the ground is jeopardized. Given the potentially lethal consequences of lasering, our collective goal today is to educate the community that lasering is dangerous and illegal, and will be vigorously addressed by the law enforcement community."

Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Colonel Brendan P. Doherty told reporters, ?This arrest and federal indictment should send a clear message that there will always be a cooperative effort between local, state and federal law enforcement to detect and arrest people who engage in this type of activity and who are a threat of public safety.?

Also in attendance at Thursday?s news conference were Leo D. Messier, Chief of the RI Airport Police; Joseph Salter, Federal Security Director, Department of Homeland Security ? TSA R.I.; Barry Morgan, FAA Facility Manager - Providence Air Traffic Control Tower; Commander Paul Lattanzzi Chief of Prevention, U.S. Coast Guard - Southeastern New England; Warwick Police Chief Colonel Stephen M. McCartney; and Captain Thomas Walsh of the International Pilots Association, an international pilot for Delta Airlines.

Aquino pleaded not guilty at his arraignment and released on unsecured bond. If convicted, Aquino faces maximum sentences of 20 years? imprisonment; three years' supervised release; and $250,000 fine on each count.


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