Californian sent to prison in laser case

Nov. 3, 2009 at 10:17 PM

ORANGE, Calif., Nov. 3 (UPI) -- A California man, the first convicted at trial for interfering with pilots by beaming lasers at planes, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison, records show.

Dana Christian Welch, 37, of Orange, who was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, also is to serve three years of supervised release after completing his prison term, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherilyn Peace Garnett said.

Welch had been found guilty in April of aiming a hand-held laser at a United Airlines jet, carrying more than 180 people, and at an Alaska Airlines plane, with more than 80 people on board, as they came in for landing at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif., on May 21, 2008, The Orange County Register reported.

The federal jury acquitted Welch of charges he tried to interfere with the pilots of a helicopter and a Delta Air Lines flight, the Register said.

There have been several defendants who have pleaded guilty to federal charges of pointing lasers at airplanes, but Welch was the first in the United States to be convicted of interfering with pilots with laser beams, the U.S. attorney's office said.

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