Maui News

Drone Operator Convicted of Disobeying Park Ranger

February 12, 2016, 1:47 PM HST
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A Hilo man was found guilty of violating a lawful order of a US Park Ranger after a confrontation last year at the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.

US Magistrate Judge Richard L. Puglisi found Travis R. Sanders, 36, guilty of the violation on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, after a two-day bench trial, and sentenced him to pay a fine of $1,000.

Florence T. Nakakuni, Untied States Attorney for the District of Hawaii, said that Sanders was convicted of disobeying a lawful order of a government employee, a Class B misdemeanor.

The charge stemmed from an evening incident on April 25, 2015, in which Sanders was flying a drone over a crowd gathered to view the Halemaʻumaʻu Crater. Justice officials not that flying a drone in a national park is unlawful.

Justice officials say a US Park Ranger identified himself as a law enforcement officer and ordered Sanders to bring down the drone.

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According to evidence presented at trial, Sanders initially refused, then eventually landed the drone. Justice officials say evidence also indicates that Sanders refused to identify himself upon request of the Ranger, and fled when the Ranger attempted to place him in custody.  When Sanders was ordered to, and then refused to stop, the Ranger used his taser to apprehend Sanders and took him into custody, according to information released by the Justice Department.

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Magistrate Judge Puglisi found that Sanders heard and understood the Ranger’s order to stop; that the order was lawful; and that Sanders willfully disobeyed the order. Magistrate Judge Puglisi further found that the Ranger’s conduct, including deploying the taser, was “entirely justified.”

Sanders was not convicted of two other counts related to disobeying the orders to land the drone and to identify himself because he eventually complied with those orders.

In addition to having to pay the fine, Sanders is banned from the Park for one year.

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