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St. James man fined $5G in laser-pointing case

A St. James man arrested in December for pointing a laser at a small plane and a helicopter will not face federal charges in the case, a Suffolk County judge said in court Friday.

David Smith, 21, whom Suffolk prosecutors have charged with obstructing governmental administration, could have faced additional charges from the Port Authority Terrorism Task Force for the Dec. 9 incident.

He managed to avoid the more serious federal charges by paying a $5,500 civil fine to the government, Suffolk County Judge Steven Lotto said.

During a brief appearance in First District Court in Central Islip, Smith told Lotto his family had given him some of the money needed to pay the fine -- a detail that seemed to irk the judge.

"Your family wasn't the one standing in the backyard and pointing a laser at a helicopter," Lotto told him. "You should be paying it all."

Prosecutors have made a plea offer to Smith, Lotto said. His attorney, Nancy Bartling, of Mineola, would not discuss its details but said Smith was in a program to address his behavior and "moving toward a disposition."

"He's remorseful," Bartling said after the appearance. "He's looking forward to moving on with his life."

Smith is accused of shining a laser pointer at a privately owned Pilatus 12/47 single-engine plane flying at 3,000 feet about five miles northwest of Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma shortly before 10 p.m. on Dec. 9, police said. A Suffolk police helicopter was also targeted by the green laser when it approached the same airspace to investigate, police said.

Lasers can temporarily blind pilots, the FAA said.

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