A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: 54-year-old woman arrested for multiple laser strikes on CHP helicopter

A California Highway Patrol helicopter was illuminated multiple times on September 20 2017, allegedly by an unnamed 54-year-old woman.

The helicopter was searching for a violent robbery suspect. The crew was forced to stop the search in order to identify the source of the laser.

CHP helicopter laser Sept 20 2017 01
Laser light from a direct hit overwhelms the camera lens for one frame of the CHP helicopter’s surveillance

CHP helicopter laser Sept 20 2017 02
A second later, the suspect can be seen (left) walking with what appears to be a child (right) in the middle of the road.


The CHP crew directed ground officers to a San Leandro house where the woman was arrested and a laser pointer was confiscated. CHP said the woman had other lasers in her home as well.

The FBI is investigating.

From the Mercury News and KRON (link to video is here)

US: Probation for Tulsa man who lased police helicopter

A man who aimed a green laser beam at a Tusla, Oklahoma police helicopter was sentenced on July 10 2017 to one year of probation, despite sentencing guidelines recommending an 18-24 month prison sentence.

On December 29 2016, Jay Scott Howell aimed the laser 11 times at the helicopter. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on February 7 2017 on one count of aiming the laser. The maximum penalty is up to five years in federal prison and/or up to a $250,000 fine.

Howell pleaded guilty on April 10 2017 to the charge.

While U.S. sentencing guidelines recommended an 18-24 month prison term, the judge sentenced Howell to one year of probation. The judge cited Howell’s age (53), limited criminal history and remorse for his actions. The prosecuting U.S. attorney did not object to the sentence, telling the judge “He’s the perfect candidate. I don’t anticipate ever seeing Mr. Howell again.”

If probation is revoked, Howell could serve up to the maximum sentence of five years.

From the Tulsa World

US: UPDATED - Convicted laser offender apologizes, saying he lost everything for three seconds of aiming laser at helicopter

A Bakersfield, California man wrote a public letter of apology, stating that he “paid dearly” for aiming a laser pointer on September 11 2014 that caused eye pain for a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter pilot.

According to an FBI press release, Barry Lee Bowser Jr., then 51 years old, aimed “the beam of a laser at Air-1, a Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter that was providing support to ground units responding to a man armed with a gun. At trial, the evidence established that the mission was diverted when the pilot of Air-1 was struck by direct hits from a powerful green laser that illuminated the cockpit and tracked the aircraft near the approach path to Meadows Field Airport. The laser strikes caused the pilot to experience flash blindness, eye discomfort, and pain that lasted several hours. In imposing sentence on September 28 2015, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill found that Bowser had obstructed justice before trial by concealing the laser and providing false statements to law enforcement and at trial through his false testimony about the offense.”

On September 23 2016, Bowser wrote to apologize, and to describe how his life had been ruined:

I'm writing this letter to apologize to the community of Bakersfield and to the Kern County Sheriff's Department —especially to the flight crew of KCSO Air One, piloted by Deputy Austin.

I was convicted of one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft and sentenced to 24 months in a federal penitentiary, then 36 more months of supervised release for a total of 60 months — five years — plus ordered to pay a special assessment fee of $10,000. I am very lucky the pilot was an expert and highly skilled at piloting the helicopter.

I also want to educate anyone who owns a laser and might be inclined to use it the way I did: Learn from my mistake. I am now just getting out of prison. I have paid dearly, for I have lost my girlfriend, my dog, my home, my vehicle. Everything I owned, everything I have worked for 30 years of my life, is gone.

For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life. I am now 54 years old and I have no one and nothing but the clothes I was given when I was released from prison.

From Bakersfield.com. Original LaserPointerSafety.com story about Bowser is here. There is a small discrepancy; the FBI said Bowser’s sentence was 21 months while Bowser stated it was 24 months.

UPDATED December 20 2016 — An extensive profile of Barry Bowser’s laser pointer incident, trial, and his life before and after his arrest, was published by Ars Technica. The 4,000 word article by editor Cyrus Farivar describes a convicted criminal and meth addict who said he was trying to go straight and clean.

On the evening of September 11 2014 he was bored and found a laser pointer which had been given to him as a dog toy. The dog soon tired of playing so Bowser aimed at a billboard, and two radio towers before he hit something in the sky — the Sheriff’s Office helicopter. When police arrived, Bowser told them was testing the laser’s capabilities. During his trial in federal court, the case hinged on Bowser’s intent. (The applicable federal law states “Whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft … shall be fined … or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.)

Prosecutor Karen Escobar said the lasing was done knowingly: “[Y]our common sense tells you there was an aiming because there were direct hits of the aircraft, and there was more than one strike.” Bowser’s public defender said there was no intent — Bowser had not meant to aim a laser pointer at a helicopter. After 4.5 hours of deliberation, Bowser was found guilty.

As stated in Bowser’s September 23 2016 letter, the conviction and jail time was ruinous: “For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life.”

Farivar’s profile is one of the few in-depth examinations of a laser pointer arrest, conviction and aftermath. His article also links to an annotated transcript of day 1 and of day 2 of Bowser’s trial, and annotated related court documents. Farivar has previously reported a number of stories about laser pointer misuse for Ars Technica.

US: Texas man pleads guilty to aiming laser at Border Patrol helicopter

Juan Peralez, 57, of La Joya Texas pleaded guilty on September 2 2016 to aiming a laser pointer at a Border Patrol Helicopter.

The incident occurred on June 20 2016, when the helicopter pilot had to take evasive action to avoid the green beam. Another crew member guided ground officers to the laser perpetrator, where Peralez was arrested.

Juan Peralez laser
Juan Peralez


He will be sentenced November 17 to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

From KLTV and the Gwinnett Daily Post

US: Florida man aims "laser comb" at helicopter, is arrested

A Florida man aimed a Bosley LaserComb, used to stimulate hair growth, at a Marion County Sheriff’s helicopter on September 2 2015. The pilot was temporarily blinded. In addition, his night vision goggles were overwhelmed by the bright light.

The helicopter crew radioed ground officers, who arrested Mark A. Geohagan, 55, of Ocala. He told officers it was “not a laser” but a laser comb. Geohagan said he was testing the distance the light could reach, and that he meant no harm. Geohagan was charged a few hours later with pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot.

Mark Allen Albert Geohagan laser
Mark A. Geohagan. His middle name was variously reported as “Allen” or “Albert”


The Bosley LaserComb Elite used by Geohagan has nine red 650nm laser diodes arranged in a line, that normally are directed towards a person’s scalp. When aimed into space, it produces a single, “extremely bright” spot of light as described in more detail after the “Read More…” link below.

From the Ocala StarBanner and Orlando Sentinel. Thanks to Chuck Maricle, Ph.D., for background information on hair comb products. For additional description and analysis of laser combs, click the “read more…” link.

Click to read more...

US: UPDATED Two California men arrested for aiming laser at plane, 1 also charged with drug possession

Two men from Tehachapi, California (about 35 miles southeast of Bakersfield) were arrested May 5 2014 for aiming a laser at an aircraft. In addition, drugs were found at the residence where the laser came from.

The evening before, a pilot was temporarily disoriented by a green laser at about 9:18 pm while landing at Tehachapi Airport. The pilot reported the laser illumination to police. A Tehachapi Police Department officer arrived and was flown around the area by the pilot. The plane was again targeted. The source, a residence, was identified. The plane landed again, and police went to get a warrant to search the residence.

A few hours later, at 3:20 am, police served the search warrant. They found the laser device along with a half pound of methamphetamine worth $20,000, cash totaling $1,400, scales and drug paraphernalia, and an 8 mm Mauser rifle and ammunition.

Arrested were Daniel Roy Mahler, 47, and Mario Guillermo Manero, 52. Both were charged with discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. In addition, Mahler was charged with possession of controlled substance for sales, and maintaining a drug house.

From Tehachapinews.com

UPDATED April 13 2015: In February 2015, Manero pleaded no contest. [The penalty, if any, was not stated in the news story.] He was arrested again in April 2015 for possession of child pornography, found during a firearms compliance check. A search warrant was obtained and several items were seized to try and identify potential victims. From the Bakersfield Californian.

US: UPDATED - Two Calif. men indicted for separate laser-pointing incidents on helicopters

On March 26 2015, a federal grand jury indicted two California men for aiming green laser beams at law enforcement helicopters. In both cases, the air crews involved experienced vision difficulties.

Case 1: Johnny Alexander Quenga, 28, of Fresno

On March 5 2015, the Fresno Police Department helicopter Air 1 was illuminated by green laser light about six times over ten minutes. One crew member, who had been illuminated by lasers numerous times in the past, suffered temporary flashblindness, afterimages, a headache lasting several hours requiring pain medication, and dizziness. He said the beam was much brighter than in his past experience. The pilot had a momentary loss of night vision, and flew a wide orbit to avoid the beam. The pilot directed ground officers to the location.

However, a patrol car on the way to the suspect’s home was broadsided at an intersection by a Toyota 4Runner. The Jaws of Life were needed to rescue one of the officers. Both officers in the car were treated at a hospital for serious injuries. The officer driving was knocked unconscious, had upper body and leg injuries, and some chipped teeth. The passenger officer had a broken leg and a fracture in his back that may require surgery. (The 4Runner driver and passenger suffered minor injuries.)

Pic 2015-04-11 at 12.49.13 PM
The Fresno Police Department car that was broadsided on the way to arrest a man who aimed a laser pointer at an FPD helicopter. Two officers were seriously injured. Photo from YourCentralValley.com.

When officers finally reached Quenga’s home, they found he was listening to police department radio traffic. He said “he could hear everything the officers were saying and knew they were looking for him and [he] had possibly hidden the laser.” Quenga claimed the laser beam came from a house behind him. He further said he worked as a security guard and knew he could lose his job for misuse of a laser.

Click to read more...

US: Air Force base employee, 57, repeatedly hits Tampa sheriff's helicopter with laser

A man who worked as a historian at MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Florida, was arrested March 13 2015 for aiming a laser pointer at a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s helicopter. There had been reports of a pilot flying over Plant City, Florida who was flashed by a green laser beam. The sheriff’s helicopter was sent to investigate. The pilot reported “he’s hitting us repeatedly, and he’s not shy about it.” An infrared camera caught 57-year-old William Polson in the act:

William Polson laser 3


The suspect, realizing he had been spotted, took off in his car — with the laser. However, ground officers caught Polson at the entrance to his subdivision and took him to jail, where he was charged with misusing a laser device which is a felony, and for opposing a police officer during an arrest which is a misdemeanor.

William Polson laser 2
William Polson


According to the Tampa Tribune, in September 2013 Polson sent an email to the newspaper saying he had been harassed for several years by law enforcement helicopters and aircraft. He said the harassment occurred daily but “made no sense” because he is “no threat to anyone.”

From ABC Action News WFTS Tampa Bay and the Tampa Tribune

US: UPDATED - 3 pilots go for eye treatment after multiple LaGuardia laser illuminations

A pilot on an Air Canada commercial airliner, and two New York police officers on a helicopter, sustained eye injuries from a laser beam pointed at aircraft flying into and out of LaGuardia Airport on March 9 2015. According to police, the helicopter officers were treated and released in stable condition. The Air Canada pilot was taken to a hospital in Toronto for treatment.

On the evening of March 9, the Federal Aviation Administration notified the New York Police Department aviation department that someone was pointing laser beams at aircraft landing and taking off from LaGuardia Airport. A helicopter was dispatched to try and “draw fire.” Nothing happened for about 20 minutes, until the helicopter flew a path similar to an aircraft landing approach. On the second pass, a laser was aimed at the helicopter.

Both pilots were hit. Said one, “You feel a strong tingle in your eyes. You have a burnt spot where you can’t see. It is very dangerous for any pilot to be blinded.”

Ground officers went to the apartment of Frank Egan, 36. His mother invited the officers inside, where they found a device labeled “Laser 303.” According to police, Egan admitted using the laser pointer. He said it was purchased for $50 in an Orlando shop while on vacation.

He was charged with assault on a police officer, felony assault, menacing a police officer, reckless endangerment, and criminal possession of a weapon.

The next day, March 10, Egan told reporters that he did not aim the beam and that he was sleeping at the time of the incident.


From NBC 4 New York, the New York Post and the New York Times

UPDATED March 14 2015: Frank Egan’s roommate and brother-in-law, Elehecer Balaguer, 54, claimed that he was the one using the laser pointer. According to the New York Times, Balaguer swore an oath in New York State Supreme Court on March 13 2015 that he, not Egan, was responsible: “Frank had nothing to do with it. I was the one that did it. It was just a kid thing. It was a stupid thing to do.” Balaguer first denied aiming at aircraft, then after being asked two more times, confessed “I pointed it at the plane, yes, thinking it was a …” and his voice trailed off. He then said “But I didn’t mean to hurt anybody.” According to Egan’s lawyer, Egan never told the police he used the laser, contrary to the police statement after Egan’s arrest. From the New York Times. A related article in the New York Times published March 12 2015 was entitled “Powerful Lasers Easy to Buy, Experts Say.” The New York Post called the laser “military-grade” and said it had been purchased while on vacation in Orlando.

Elehecer Balaguer laser
Elehecer Balaguer in court


UPDATED March 17 2015: Balaguer was charged on March 16 2015 in federal court with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. This has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. FAA officials said they had to redirect traffic in and out of LaGuardia on March 9 to avoid going over the Bronx, where Balaguer and Egan lived. Balaguer’s attorney said the suspect “uses methadone every day and takes medication for bipolar disorder”, and that he was “harmless”: “It was stupidity, not venality.” From the Wall Street Journal.

UPDATED May 5 2015: Balauger pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He could face up to five years in prison. The judge said sentencing guidelines call for between 2 and 2 1/2 years. He said sentencing of Balauger would not be routine “Given his psychiatric history, given his apparent lack of any wrongful intent, I can see one set of arguments being made; on the other hand I can see a different set of arguments because of the danger presented,” said the judge. Sentencing was scheduled for September 9 2015. According to the New York Post, Balauger is a disabled ex-heroin dealer who has a history of schizophrenia and left school after ninth grade. From CBS New York, the New York Post, and the New York Times.

Click to read more...

US: Florida man, 52, arrested; helicopter noise bothered him so he aimed a laser at it

A 52-year-old from West Boca, Florida, was arrested July 10 2014 for aiming a laser pointer at a Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office helicopter. The pilots said they had been “disoriented” by the laser light.

James McDonald told arresting officers that the noise had been bothering him. He apologized, saying that he did not know that pointing a laser at an aircraft was illegal.

He was charged with pointing a laser light at a pilot, which is a third-degree felony in Florida.

From the Sun Sentinel

Australia: Perth-area man fined AUS $2500 for multiple laser hits on police helicopter

A 51-year-old Perth-area man was fined AUS $2500 (USD $2350) on July 8 2014 for “causing fear or alarm with a laser”.

At about 11:30 pm on April 19 2014, Peter Allan McArthur of Parmelia aimed a green laser numerous times at a police helicopter. Ground officers found McArthur with two handheld lasers; he told the officers that he aimed at the aircraft “to see what happens”.

During trial, the police prosecutor said McArthur should face a jail sentence due to the potential hazard.

According to his lawyer, McArthur’s laser misuse “could have had serious consequences but he did not intend for anything like that to happen. He did not intend danger.”

The judge let McArthur off with the $2500 fine, plus $147 in court costs and his lasers would be destroyed. She said she took into account that McArthur pleaded guilty and had a minimal record.

From In My Community

US: UPDATED - Ohio man charged with lying about his involvement in a laser/aircraft incident

A 57-year-old Toledo (Ohio) area man was charged with making a false statement with regard to a laser pointer incident that occurred on June 17 2012. Ronald E. Deal, Sr. told federal investigators that he did not know about the incident where a laser was aimed at an aircraft in Hancock County. He further falsely said he (Deal) pointed the laser when in fact he knew it was another person who did so.

Authorities did not have any additional details about the charge, or about who actually pointed the laser at the aircraft.

From the Toledo Blade

UPDATED - August 28 2014: Deal was sentenced on August 25 2014 to one month in prison followed by two years of probation, for the charge fof making a false statement or representation to a department or agency of the United States. From the Toledo Blade

UK: Police employee, 53, sentenced to two years community service, £3,500 in costs

A police community service officer (PCSO) was sentenced February 4 2014 to two years community service, and was ordered to pay £3,500 in costs, for pointing a green laser beam towards a police helicopter hovering above his home.

On May 20 2013, the helicopter was sent to investigate a shooting. As it hovered over Luton, a green laser beam dazzled the crew of three, leading to evasive action by the pilot. Officers on the ground traced the beam to 53-year-old James McIvor, a PCSO with British Transport Police. (A PCSO is a civilian member of police staff who is a uniformed non-warranted officer.)

James McIvor PCSO laser
James McIvor, PCSO, British Transport Police


McIvor told officers he had been using a laser pen to attract his elderly cat that was on top of his garage.

McIvor was convicted in December 2013 of acting in a negligent manner to endanger the safety of an aircraft. He was acquitted of a more serious charge of recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft.

From BBC News and Wikipedia’s PCSO page

US: Florida man arrested for aiming a laser at a commercial aircraft and police helicopter

A 51-year-old Florida man was charged with misuse of laser lighting devices, a third-degree felony, for aiming a laser at a commercial aircraft and at a police helicopter.

On December 28 2013, an aircraft landing at Southwest Florida International Airport, in South Fort Myers on the west coast of Florida, reported a laser incident. A Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was sent to investigate. It was illuminated by a laser from a residence in Cape Coral, Fl.

Ground officers found Stephen Clyde Plock, 51, and two children at the residence. Plock initially denied knowledge of the laser but eventually admitted that he saw the plane and helicopter and aimed the laser into the sky.

Stephen Plock laser
Stephen Plock


From WINK News and NBC News

US: UPDATED - Jail and probation for Kentucky man who pointed laser gunsight at police helicopter

Steven French, 50, pleaded guilty on September 4 2013 to second-degree wanton endangerment. On August 24 2013, while working as a security guard, French aimed a green laser attached to his 9mm pistol at a police helicopter. He had told police he did this because he was bored and pointed the laser on his gun at the helicopter to test its range. The laser’s light hit the cockpit three times.

The Lexington, Kentucky man was sentenced to 12 months in jail; 30 days will be served while the remaining 11 months will be probated for two years. He is also required to complete 100 hours of community service, and to forfeit his gun and laser.

French avoided federal criminal prosecution (with a potential penalty of up to 5 years in prison and up to $250,000 fine) by pleading guilty in state court. He still may face civil fines imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

From Lex18.com and Kentucky.com. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story of his August 13 2013 arrest is here.

US: UPDATED - "Bored" Kentucky man jailed for testing laser gunsight range on police helicopter

A 50-year-old man was arrested for wanton endangerment August 24 2013, after he aimed his laser gunsight at a Lexington (Ky.) Police helicopter. Steven French was working as a security guard on a construction site. He told police he was bored and pointed the laser on his gun at the helicopter to test its range.

Steven French laser
Steven French

From WKYT

UPDATED August 26 2013: WKYT interviewed the helicopter pilot, Sgt. Scott May. He told the station he was “shocked” when he heard the laser was attached to a loaded 9mm pistol. He said “When you combine the two elements of laser and gun, it’s quite alarming to us…. Now, the next time this happens, we’ve got to step back and say, ‘Is there a gun attached to this laser.’ “ From WKYT

UPDATED September 10 2013:
French pleaded guilty on September 4 2013. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail; 30 days will be served while the remaining 11 months will be probated for two years. He is also required to complete 100 hours of community service, and to forfeit his gun and laser. Additional details are here.

US: UPDATED - 100-year sentence possible for Va. man after two laser incidents

A 56-year-old Virginia Beach man faces up to 100 years in prison on six counts related to incidents on April 11 and June 5 2012 where Navy aircraft were lased near Naval Air Station Oceana. On June 20 2012, Robert Bruce, Jr. was indicted on the following charges:
  • Two counts of interference with flight crew (20 years maximum penalty for each count)
  • Two counts of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft (5 years maximum penalty for each count)
  • Two counts of assaulting, resisting or impeding federal officers (25 years maximum penalty for each count)

The Virginian-Pilot reported that Bruce aimed lasers at the jets “more than a dozen times” since December 2011. He was annoyed by the their noise. The two counts of assaulting federal officers may be related to Bruce calling the air station to threaten to shoot at the noisy aircraft.

According to a press release, “it is believed that the Eastern District of Virginia is the second jurisdiction to indict” using the new Federal law passed February 14 2012, making it a criminal offense to aim a laser pointer at or near an aircraft.

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release, PilotOnline.com, and WAVY.com

UPDATE July 31 2012: Bruce pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. The other five counts were dropped in exchange for the guilty plea. Bruce will be sentenced October 19 2012. He could receive up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Pilots testified that they saw lasers at least 10 times from the area of Bruce’s house between December 29 2011 and June 5 2012. One of the pilots lased by Bruce reported that direct eye exposure was painful, distracted her during landing, and gave her a headache. A spokesperson for Oceana Naval Air Station said that, of 18 laser incidents in Virginia Beach since December 2011, 12 of the incidents were due to Bruce. There were 12 incidents total in 2011. From the Virginian-Pilot.

US: Lodi CA man quickly captured thanks to airborne video

Lodi police released a video showing how a Lodi man was captured just four minutes after he began targeting a California Highway Patrol aircraft with a green laser pointer on April 29 2012.

Lodi police laser video - visible
Video from a CHP airborne camera shows the green beam at an instant of maximum intensity. The bright/dark line is an artifact from the camera sensor being oversaturated.

Lodi police laser video - ir
Switching to a high-resolution infrared camera moments later, the suspect can be clearly seen (white dot in center, just to the left of a house).


The CHP aircraft had been searching for the source of laser beams aimed at airplanes flying over Lodi, when they were repeatedly illuminated by a green beam. By switching between a color camera that captured the beam, and a high-resolution infrared camera that showed a suspect, ground units were able to move in on the suspect.

Charles Brill laser


Charles Brill, 52, was arrested and charged with one state felony charge of willfully discharging a laser at an aircraft. Federal charges could also be filed under the new law signed Feb. 14 2012 by President Obama, according to a police spokesperson.

Brill told the arresting officer that the reason he pointed the laser at the aircraft was that "he liked watching the green color light and seeing how it sparkled.” The arrest report also said that Brill wanted "to use (the laser) as a reference point and see how far the laser beam could travel."

From KCRA.com and ABC News10.net. A News10.net news report video is here; the raw video from the CHP helicopter is here as well as at the KCRA page.

South Africa: Three arrested in airport, Air Force base incidents

Three persons were arrested around January 5-6 2012, for aiming green laser beams at helicopters using Bloemfontein Airport and the adjacent Air Force Base Bloemspruit. A 54-year-old man, his 14-year-old son, and a 22-year-old friend were charged with violating Section 133 of the Civil Aviation Act 13 of 2009. Specifically, “Section (j) (i) of the said Act states that any person who wilfully performs any act which jeopardises or may jeopardise the operation of an air carrier is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment not exceeding 30 years or to both such fine and imprisonment” said a spokesperson

The three will be arraigned in court on January 9.

There had been concern over local airspace due to a January 8 political event at Free State Stadium with over 100,000 persons in attendance. The laser incident appears to be unrelated to a temporary Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) requiring general aviation and recreation pilots to file flight plans in advance.

From The New Age. According to a separate story in The New Age, this was only the second time that arrests have been made in South Africa for aiming lasers at aircraft. The first was in May 2010 during a World Cup event.
.

US: UPDATED - 5 years probation for Florida man

Mark Clay Hazlitt, 59, of Lakeland Florida was sentenced on June 2 2011 to five years probation on federal charges of interfering with the operation of a Polk County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.


Five years probation

The judge ruled that Hazlitt’s laser pointer was not a “dangerous weapon” under the circumstances of the case. This finding helped reduce the severity of Hazlitt’s sentence. He could have received up to 20 years in prison for the November 21 2010 green laser pointer illumination, which occurred because he was “tired of hearing” the helicopter.

According to The Ledger, Hazlitt said at the sentencing that “his actions last year [were] the result of ‘very bad judgment.’” He has started a website, laserawareness.us, in order to apologize and to publicize the hazards and potential penalties of laser pointer misuse.

LaserPointerSafety.com carried a story about the original Lakeland laser incident here.

From
NewsChief.com and The Ledger

US: Over two years in prison, $10,000 fine for lasering police helicopter

James Gautieri, 53, was sentenced on April 13 2011 to 33 months in prison plus a $10,000 fine for the April 30 2008 illumination of a police helicopter in Philadelphia. The charge was “interference with an aircraft.” The chopper pilot testified that he was temporarily blinded and the aircraft went into a nosedive. He said he would have crashed if his co-pilot had not taken over the controls.

The judge called Gautieri a “liar” for claiming that he was using the laser to follow stars.

Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey said “Let the sentencing today send a message that this behavior will not be tolerated.” U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said “As a direct result of his reckless and irresponsible behavior, the defendant will now have several years to think about how he endangered public safety by shining a laser into a helicopter pilot's eyes.”

From
NBC Philadelphia, CBS Philly and an FBI press release

US: Florida man pleads guilty to helicopter illumination

Mark Clay Hazlett pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. He could receive up to 20 years in prison. The charge stems from a Nov. 21 2010 incident when Hazlett aimed a green laser pointer at a police helicopter. The crew was forced to break off their search in order to deal with the laser illuminations. (More on the original incident is here.)

Hazlett will be sentenced at a later date.

From
The Ledger

UPDATE, JUNE 2 2011: Hazlitt was sentenced to five years probation on the federal charge. He said the incident was “very bad judgment.” Update from The Ledger.

US: UPDATED - 3-year prison sentence for targeting police helicopter

A Massachusetts man was sentenced to three years in federal prison, for the December 8, 2007 illumination of a state police helicopter. The charges included “willfully interfering with an aircraft operator with reckless disregard for human life”, and making false statements to arresting officers.

52-year-old Gerard Sasso aimed a Class 3B green laser, said to be “at least five to ten times more powerful than an ordinary laser pointer” [approximately 25 to 50 milliwatts], at a helicopter that was escorting a liquified natural gas tanker through Boston Harbor. The pilots took evasive action, but the cockpit was hit and filled with “an intense sparkling green light”. The pilots and Coast Guard were able to trace the source to Sasso’s apartment in Medford. He “falsely and repeatedly” told police he was not the perpetrator. However, officers saw a laser pointer and he then admitted lasing the aircraft. Eleven lasers were seized from his apartment.

News reports quoted prosecutors as saying that Sasso was the second person in the U.S. to be convicted of lasing an aircraft. They also pointed to the November 2009 sentence of a California man who received 2.5 years for shining a laser at two airplanes and temporarily blinding a pilot. [This may refer to federal prison sentences, since others in the U.S. have received jail time for laser/aircraft incidents. The Nov. 2009 reference is to Dana Christian Welch.]

From
Island Crisis and the Boston Herald. Thanks to David Freihofer and Paul Berthot for bringing this to our attention.

UPDATE August 1 2012: Sasso’s case was appealed on grounds that the jury was given incorrect instructions at the January 2010 trial. The jury was told that it was sufficient for them to find that Sasso “willfully” aimed his laser at the helicopter. However Sasso’s public defender argued August 1 2012 in appeals court that Sasso had to willfully know that his actions would interfere with the aircraft operator. Thus, the jury should have been told to determine if Sasso knew the laser could interfere. An updated story is here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

US: Florida man annoyed at copter shines laser; arrested

A 58-year-old deliberately targeted a Polk County Sheriff’s Office helicopter on Sunday Nov. 21 because he was “tired of hearing it”. The aircraft had been searching for a suicidal suspect. They were forced to break off the search due to the “intense light that disoriented the pilot and a flight observer. It also interfered with night-vision equipment.” The pilot had to leave the area to readjust cockpit equipment, forcing additional units to be allocated to find the suicidal subject.

Mark Clay Hazlitt was arrested and charged under Florida law with Misuse of Laser Lighting Device, a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Sheriff Grady Judd said “Mr. Hazlitt deliberately interfered with a search in which deputies were trying to locate a man who said he was going to take his life. The laser used was strong enough to disrupt night vision devices thus creating a very real danger to our air unit crew. He deliberately placed the lives of our pilot and flight observer in jeopardy, as well as those on the ground had the helicopter crashed. Hazlitt's behavior was reckless and his actions felonious. We will not tolerate anyone placing the lives of our deputies or residents in danger."

The suicidal subject was later located and was placed in protective custody.

From the Orlando Sentinel via
Sun-Sentinel.com
Thanks to Tony Zmorenski for bringing this to our attention.

UPDATE #1, MARCH 18 2011: In January 2011, a grand jury indicted Hazlitt on a more serious U.S. federal charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. The penalty can be up to 20 years in prison. On March 18 2011, Hazlitt pleaded guilty to this federal charge. Sentencing was scheduled for later. Update from The Ledger

UPDATE #2, JUNE 2 2011: Hazlitt was sentenced to five years probation on the federal charge. The judge said the laser pointer was not a “dangerous weapon”. Hazlitt said the incident was “very bad judgment,” and has started a website, laserawareness.us, to publicize the dangers of pointer misuse. Update #2 from The Ledger.

US: Grand jury indicts man for hitting patrol plane

SACRAMENTO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today that a federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging Samuel Gregory Liebman, 51, of Roseville California, with interference with an aircraft for pointing a laser at a California Highway Patrol plane.

The indictment alleges that on August 30, 2010, Liebman struck a CHP Cessna 206 multiple times with a powerful green laser while it was flying .

This case is the product of a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the California Highway Patrol, and Federal Air Marshals with the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney Jean M. Hobler is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Liebman faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

From a U.S. Department of Justice press release