Federal charges brought against Naperville man in FAA fire
A Naperville man accused of setting fire last fall to the Chicago Center air traffic control facility in Aurora as part of a failed suicide attempt is expected to be arraigned soon on two federal charges brought by the U.S. Attorneys Office, authorities said Friday.
Brian Howard, 37, is charged with one count of willfully setting fire to, damaging, destroying or disabling an air navigation facility and one count of using fire to commit a federal felony.
Howard, who has been in federal custody since September 2014, will be arraigned as early as next week in U.S. District Court in front of Judge Gary Feinerman.
Authorities said he could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross loss caused by his actions. In addition, using fire to commit a federal felony carries an additional mandatory penalty of 10 years in prison.
Howard was employed as a FAA contractor who worked on telecommunications matters at the Chicago Center and other FAA facilities for about eight years.
He is accused of starting the fire in the early morning hours on Sept. 26. According to court documents, Howard slashed and ignited vital telecommunications cables under floor panels, damaging key infrastructure and likely endangering the safety of aircraft in flight.
Firefighters responding to the blaze followed a trail of blood on the floor and found a shirtless Howard lying under a table trying to slice his throat with a knife.
The blaze at the control center forced the closure of O'Hare and Midway airports and caused massive disruptions in flights across the country for several days. The center controls the air space over parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan and handles roughly 3 million aircraft operations a year.