PHOENIX, AZ (August 8, 2012) – Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Karen Potts today sentenced Michael Andrew Cerise (D.O.B. 8/2/65) to spend 90 days in jail followed by three years of supervised probation for pointing a laser at two commercial aircraft and a police helicopter in November 2011. The incidents occurred while the aircraft were passing over the heavily populated Phoenix metro area. Three pilots suffered minor injuries as a result of being struck by the laser.
“The consequences of this defendant’s reckless actions could have been unbelievably catastrophic to passengers in the air and residents on the ground,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “This case should send a clear message to anyone thinking about pulling a senseless stunt like this. Pointing lasers at aircraft is dangerous, stupid and illegal. If you do it, we will catch you and punish you,” he added.
At around 9:00pm on November 9, 2011, the Phoenix Police Department Air Unit responded to a call of lasers being pointed at passing commercial aircraft from the ground in the area of 86th Avenue and Highland. When the Air Unit arrived over the area, the pilot was hit with a green laser, causing temporary partial blindness. Another officer in the aircraft was able to see that the source of the laser was a man standing at his patio door. Ground units were directed to the residence and the defendant was questioned by police. After initially denying that he pointed any lasers at the sky, he produced the green laser which he had hidden in his couch cushions.
In a subsequent interview, Cerise claimed he bought the green laser at a yard sale and was curious to see how far its beam could reach. He ultimately admitted pointing the laser at the sky more than once on the evening of the incident. Prosecutors were able to prove that Cerise in fact struck two other aircraft with the green laser that evening, a US Airways flight carrying approximately 200 passengers and a Frontier Airlines flight carrying approximately 130 passengers. The US Airways flight, which was on final approach, was forced to alter its course by 90 degrees in order to avoid the laser strikes.