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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: Four arrests in Phoenix for lasing of helicopter using laser gunsight

Four persons were arrested in Phoenix on September 1 2013, for aiming the red beam from a .45 caliber handgun’s laser aiming sight at a police helicopter. The vision of the pilot and observer was temporarily blocked.

Ground officers found the four in a midtown apartment complex. Two men, Peter Ospitale, 28, and Paul Word, 31, were arrested for investigation of endangerment. Two women, Mary Grace and Marci Gomez, both 28, were arrested for investigation of obstructing government operations.

Peter Ospitale laserPaul Word laser
L-R: Peter Ospitale, Paul Word

Mary Grace laserMarci Gomez laser
L-R: Mary Grace, Marci Gomez


From MyFoxPhoenix.com, KHPO, and KJZZ

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: Firing gun at helicopter: 10 years; using lasers: 3-20 years

In the past few years, a number of persons have been convicted of illuminating pilots of aircraft, often police helicopters. LaserPointerSafety.com has a partial list here. In the U.S., the average sentence seems to be about 3 years. Some persons may wonder how lasers are treated compared with guns.

In Orlando, two similar cases in the same jurisdiction provide one point of comparison.

Jason Dennis McGuire was convicted Jan 21 2011 of firing a handgun at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter in March 2010. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Jason Dennis McGuire “faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison”. He will be sentenced in April 2011.

In a parallel case, the Sentinel notes that another Orlando man, Frank Newton Anderson, “faces up to 20 years in prison for interfering with the operation of an aircraft” by shining a laser at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter in April 2010. Anderson pleaded guilty on January 20 2011 to one count of interfering with an aircraft, Anderson also will be sentenced in April 2011. This case was previously reported here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

From the Orlando Sentinel and a Tampa FBI press release

GUN UPDATE: On April 26 2011, Jason Dennis McGuire was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for firing a handgun at a sheriff’s helicopter, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The charges were “attempted destruction of an aircraft, possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony, and ... using a firearm during a violent crime.” A press release from the U.S. Department of Justice is here.

LASER UPDATE: In July 2011, Frank Newton Anderson was sentenced to one year probation and a $4000 fine for interfering with the operation of an aircraft, according to the Orlando Sentinel. In addition, it appears this is a felony conviction which will prevent Anderson from working in his field of security. At the time of his arrest, he owned Viking Protective Group of Winter Park, Florida.

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.