Michael Cerise Going to Jail for Pointing a Laser at Three in-Flight Aircraft Out of Curiosity

Curiosity will cost 47-year-old Michael Cerise 90 days of freedom after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Karen Potts sentenced him to jail yesterday.

Cerise must also serve an additional three years of probation following his 90-day bid for the November 2011 laser-pointing that injured three pilots.

"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 says in a 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."

Cerise made the decision to shine his laser-pointer at aircraft passing over the Phoenix metro area on November 9, 2011. That night, the Phoenix Police Air Unit was alerted to calls of a green laser being pointed at a U.S. Airways flight carrying 200 passengers and a Frontier Airlines flight carrying 130 passengers.

The U.S. Airways flight had to change its landing course to avoid the beams of laser-light, according to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office statement.

The pilot of the Phoenix Police helicopter responding to the calls was struck with the laser-pointer and partially blinded.

Another officer in the helicopter spotted where the light was coming from -- a dummy on his patio.

Cerise bought the laser-pointer at a yard sale, and was determined to see how far it could travel. Cerise initially denied that he pointed the laser beams in the sky, but eventually admitted that he was just curious to see how far it could go.

To answer Cerise's question, the beam apparently went pretty far -- far enough to change the landing course of a commercial airplane, and far enough to partially blind a helicopter pilot.

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Jason Lewis
Contact: Jason Lewis