Published July 06, 2016
A judge in Connecticut Wednesday said he planned to rule within a week in a father and son's case against the Federal Aviation Administration over YouTube videos of gun-toting, flame-throwing drones.
Austin Haughwout, 19, of Clinton, and his father, Bret Haughwout, produced the videos. They've refused to comply with subpoenas issued by the U.S. attorney's office on behalf of the FAA, saying the subpoenas violate their constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and questioning the agency's authority to regulate recreational drones.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer gave both sides a deadline of Monday, July 11 to file any additional documents.
One of the Haughwouts' videos, viewed more than 3.7 million times, shows a flying drone equipped with a handgun firing rounds. Another video, viewed nearly 600,000 times, shows a flying drone with a flamethrower lighting up a spit-roasting Thanksgiving turkey. Both videos were recorded in the family's yard.
In arguments that lasted about an hour, attorneys debated the FAA's authority to enforce rather than simply investigate. The judge questioned whether or not the FAA had the authority to regulate everything airborne, even objects mere inches off the ground.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Larson argued that yes, the agency should have the right to regulate anything designed or intended to fly or leave the ground.
In this case, FAA officials have claimed they just want to conduct an investigation because all they know about the drones is what they can see in the videos.
They would like to know how the drones in question were used in other instances. They say the record in this case is "non-existent."
Defense attorneys argued whether drones are correctly defined as aircraft and therefore fall under the juristiction of the FAA. They told the court the FAA doesn't disguish between a paper airplane and their client's drone.
"This is a kid playing in his backyard," defense attorney Mario Cerame said in court documents.
Austin Haughwout claims in a state lawsuit that he was expelled from Central Connecticut State University on bogus threatening allegations by school officials who were really concerned about the drone videos. The lawsuit seeks his reinstatement to the school.
School officials deny the allegations and say Haughwout was expelled for making threatening statements and gestures toward other people on campus.
Austin Haughwout has been in and out of the news over the past two years. On Thursday, Clinton police announced they charged him with enticing a minor with a computer, attempted sexual assault and possession of child pornography after police say they found child porn on his cellphone.
Last year, Clinton police charged him with assaulting officers. The case remains pending.
In 2014, a woman was charged with assaulting Haughwout because she was upset he was using a drone to film above a state beach in Madison. Haughwout posted a video of the confrontation on YouTube that has been viewed more than 500,000 times.
Fox News' Lissa Kaplan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.