SANTA MONICA—Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney John Duran will appeal the 60-day jail-time sentence issued to pilot and film producer David Riggs for stunts performed over the Santa Monica Pier in November of 2008. Riggs was promoting his film “Kerosene Cowboys” when he violated California Public Utilities code 21407, which protects citizens from “reckless endangerment to life and property” by pilots. Riggs was prosecuted by Terry White, head of the Santa Monica city attorney’s office’s criminal division.
Flying a Soviet-era jet trainer, Riggs reportedly reached altitudes as low as 100 feet over the water, according to bystanders, and performed climbing spirals over the pier. Riggs was convicted by jury and also received a $900 fine and $260 for court fees, as well as 60 days of mandatory beach cleanup. The statute has been rarely used in California since its establishing; only one other pilot has received a jail sentence from its utilization.
In an interview with Canyon News, defense attorney John Duran explained that the basis for his appeal is in the interpretation of the statute. “Currently, there’s no authority on the statute because it hasn’t been challenged since its establishing,” said Duran. “The prosecution should have to prove actual damage to life and property in order for there to be a criminal conviction.” According to Duran, no persons or property were harmed during the “air show.”
Furthermore, Duran claims that the videotape of the incident being used in the appeal shows the majority of onlookers remain on the pier, with full awareness of the event.
“Mr. Riggs had confirmed permission from the FAA, from an FAA safety expert and from the Santa Monica air control tower prior to the air show,” stated Duran. “The air show went on for about 10 minutes, and the vast majority of people understood it to be what it was.”
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Harold I. Cherness placed Riggs’s jail sentence as pending as he awaits the appeal.