SAN FRANCISCO — The pilot of the helicopter stolen by Ronald McIntosh to spring McIntosh's lover from prison insisted Tuesday that McIntosh had used a gun, not a bribe, to get him to land and relinquish the helicopter.
Testifying at the federal court trial of McIntosh and Samantha Dorinda Lopez, pilot Peter Szabo denied that McIntosh had offered him money or a plane ticket to Szabo's native Australia before he landed the rented craft on a hillside in southern Alameda County last November.
McIntosh, who had gained experience flying helicopters in Vietnam, took off from that hill and landed just over a half-hour later inside the Federal Correctional Institution in Pleasanton. Seconds later he flew away with Lopez, a convicted bank robber he had met in prison.
The pair were arrested 10 days later in a Sacramento-area shopping mall where they were picking up wedding rings.
Lawyers for the couple contend that the escape was legally justified because Lopez allegedly had been threatened with death after complaining about financial irregularities that she had discovered while working at the prison business office.