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Patriot Act used to quell laser pointer terror

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A New Jersey miracle man has been charged under the Patriot Act for allegedly shining a laser into two pilots' eyes.

David Banach could face up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for disrupting the operator of a mass transportation vehicle - a charge covered under the controversial Patriot Act - and lying to the FBI. Authorities claim that Banach, 38, admitted to shining a laser at a jet plane and at a helicopter flying over his home. The jet pilots were momentarily blinded by the green laser light, according to state officials. Their Cessna Citation flying at 3,000 feet had six passengers.

Earlier this week, the FBI dismissed the idea that a string of "laser in the cockpit" incidents were part of a terrorist plot to bother pilots. The Feds, however, have now applied the long arm of the Patriot Act - invented after the Sept. 11 attacks - to Banach's supposed crime.

"We are not saying this is a grand terrorist incident," U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie told the New York Post. "We have to send a clear message to the public - no matter what the intent was."

Banach says he was simply playing with his daughter, showing off the new laser bought for his job as a fiber optic cable tester. His lawyer Gina Mendola Longarzo said the state is using Banach as a "sacrificial lamb."

"I don't think the Patriot Act was enacted to cover this kind of unintentional conduct," she told the Post.

Beyond the possible misuse of the Patriot Act, there are other issues here. After reading our laser story earlier in the week, a number of Register readers questioned the odds of anyone on the ground being able to shine a laser into the eye of a pilot. Banach is supposed to have hit the jet three times with his laser, managing to strike the pilots' pupils at least once. That's quite an amazing feat.

Maybe the FBI should really be looking for Cyclops. The X-MEN are headquartered in New York after all.

Elsewhere, gang members are also being charged under the Patriot Act. Don't plenty of laws already exist for sentencing thugs and murderers? ®

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