NEW YORK (AP) — In a courtroom twist, a family friend of a man charged with pointing a laser at aircraft claimed responsibility for it Friday.
"I was the one that did it," Elehecer Balaguer told a judge at a Bronx court appearance for Frank Egan, the man arrested in the case this week. Balaguer said Egan had "nothing to do with it."
At least for now, Egan remains charged with assault, weapon possession and directing a laser at an aircraft — a crime under a state law that took effect in November. Balaguer, meanwhile, was being questioned and was taken into custody on a warrant for skipping court in an unrelated marijuana-possession case.
Both are due back in court April 17. By then, it should be clearer who will be prosecuted.
Pilots of three passenger planes and a police helicopter told authorities they suffered eye injuries — some were treated at hospitals — and distraction from a light beam as they were flying near LaGuardia Airport from about 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday, according to a criminal complaint. Police traced it to Egan's nearby apartment and found a laser device sitting on a refrigerator, the complaint said.
Police had said the 36-year-old Egan admitted using the laser Monday night, but Egan denied any involvement. His lawyer, Francis O'Reilly, said this week that Egan, a 36-year-old florist, was asleep when the laser incident happened.
"He didn't do anything wrong," O'Reilly said Friday.
Balaguer, who is romantically involved with a relative of Egan's, agreed.
Balaguer, 54, said he was toying with the laser, which he had recently bought in Florida, and hadn't meant to point it at planes.
"It was just a stupid thing. A kid thing," he said.