Seattle Court Orders Jail Time for ‘Reckless Endangerment’ Drone Incident

Judge Willie Gregory of the Seattle Municipal Court has sentenced the owner of an aerial photography company to 30 days in jail for “reckless endangerment” stemming from a 2015 drone accident.

According to the Seattle Municipal Court, Paul M. Skinner lost control of his 2-lb. drone at Seattle’s Gay Pride Parade in 2015 and injured two people. The aircraft crashed into a building on 4th Ave. and then struck the two people; one woman suffered a concussion, and one man was bruised.

Gregory recognized that the incident was an accident but said Skinner had “engaged in conduct that put people in danger of being injured – which is what happened.”

City Attorney Pete Holmes, who had sought 90 days of jail time, said he views the faulty operation of drones as a “serious public safety issue that will only get worse,” noting the increasing prevalence of drones on the market, the Seattle Municipal Court explains in a press release.

Representing Holmes before the judge, Raymond Lee, assistant city prosecutor, said Seattle residents “should not fear a drone strike falling from the sky” and noted that the defendant created the situation that caused the harm.

Last month, the court says, a jury convicted Skinner of reckless endangerment, which is defined as follows: “A person is guilty of reckless endangerment when he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person.”

In handing down the sentence, Gregory, who had presided over the four-day jury trial in January, recalled that “the [woman] victim had a hard time talking about what happened to her when you [Skinner] placed that drone in the air.”

In addition, a hearing is set for May 25 to resolve the amount of restitution that Skinner owes the woman for her medical treatment.

Skinner’s attorney said he will appeal the verdict. While it is pending, Skinner will not have to serve the 30 days in jail. However, he will have to meet the other conditions imposed by the court.

“With limited legal tools at our disposal,” Holmes says, “I’m extremely proud of the job Raymond Lee and Jeff Wolf [Lee’s co-counsel] did. Operators should know that we will continue to go after them when they disregard public safety.”

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