A Phoenix man who shined a green laser light at two commercial airliners and a police helicopter in the west Valley last fall was sentenced Wednesday to 90 days in jail and three years of supervised probation for actions described as “reckless” and potentially catastrophic.
Michael Andrew Cerise, 47, whose actions temporarily blinded three pilots, received the sentence for three counts of endangerment from Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Karen Potts, according to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
About 9 p.m. on Nov. 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 and Highland avenues. When the police helicopter 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, Cerise produced the green laser which he had hidden in his couch cushions, according to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
“The consequences of this defendant’s reckless actions could have been unbelievably catastrophic to passengers in the air and residents on the ground,” Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in an office-issued statement. “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.”
Cerise pointed the laser at a U.S. Airways flight carrying approximately 200 passengers and a Frontier Airlines flight carrying approximately 130 passengers.
The U.S. Airways flight, which was on final approach, was forced to alter its course by 90 degrees in order to avoid the laser strikes, according to the county attorney’s office.
Authorities had received reports of similar incidents throughout an eight-month period leading up to Cerise’s arrest, according to Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Cerise, who told authorities he bought the laser at a yard sale, said he was just curious to see how far the light would shine into the sky.
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