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Germany: Eight months for aiming laser at aircraft, police helicopter

Unnamed man, 49
Zossen, Brandenburg, Germany


A 49-year-old German man was sentenced May 31 2017 to eight months in prison for aiming a laser at a police helicopter.

In August 2016, several aircraft flying in or out of Berlin Schönefeld Airport reported glare from a laser beam A police helicopter was sent to investigate, and was also hit by laser light.

The unnamed perpetrator later said in court he had not been aiming at anything specific in the night sky, and that he did not see the helicopter.

He was sentenced in Zossen (Brandenburg) District Court; Zossen is about 20 miles south of Berlin.

From Spiegel Online in original German and in Google-translated English. Thanks to Alex Hennig for bringing this to our attention.

US: Three years in prison for Kansas City man who aimed a laser at a police helicopter

Jordan Clarence Rogers, 26
Kansas City, Missouri, US


Rogers was sentenced on January 17 2017 to three years in federal prison without parole.

On October 28 2013, Rogers aimed a laser three times at a Kansas City (Missouri) Police Department helicopter. The pilot had “eye strain” for several hours after the incident.

Rogers was indicted on the laser charge on August 26 2014. He pleaded guilty on September 8 2016 to one felony count.

At sentencing, federal prosecutors said that Rogers had an extensive history of criminal activity including drug and property crimes, which should be a factor in a longer 4-year sentence.

Rogers’ attorney said the sentence should be shorter. While Rogers knew it was illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft, “he had no knowledge of the highly scientific manner in which a laser endangers an airplane.”

In a sentencing memorandum, he attorney wrote “The average person would believe that a laser beam hitting an aircraft would cause a small spot to appear on the aircraft or in the cockpit, much like shining a laser beam at a wall. It is not common knowledge that the laser actually increases with size as it extends, and that the glass of the cockpit can expand the light further, causing it to light up the entire cockpit.”

From KY3.com, the Kansas City Star, and an article by Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica with additional links to legal materials.

New Zealand: 10 weeks for aiming at two planes; control tower

Tane Hemopo, 36
Hornby, Christchurch, New Zealand


On April 5 2016, Tane Hemopo, 39, was arrested for repeatedly aiming a “high powered” laser pointer at two passenger planes landing at Christchurch Airport. In one case, a Virgin Airlines aircraft with 121 passengers was illuminated for about 20 seconds while at 20,000 feet altitude, then was illuminated an additional three times while on final landing approach. The pilots were dazzled but did not report more serious eye effects. He also aimed at the airport control tower.

Hemopo admitted aiming at the aircraft, but not at the cockpit. He further said he was unaware the laser light could be dangerous.

In August 2016 Hemopo pleaded guilty to charges of “causing unnecessary danger.” This has a fine of up to NZD $10,000 and one year in prison.

The Crown dropped charges of “reckless disregard for the safety of others,” which has a maximum penalty of 14 years.

On September 28 2016, Hemopo failed to appear for sentencing. The judge issued an arrest warrant for Hemopo.

On December 1 2016, Hemopo was sentenced to 10 weeks in jail.

From Stuff.co.nz and the New Zealand Herald.

US: Six months in prison for Texas man who aimed laser at Department of Public Safety helicopter

Austin Lawrence Siferd, 25
Johnson County, Texas, US


Austin Lawrence Siferd laser

On July 22 2015, numerous aircraft including commercial and FedEx flights reported being illuminated by laser light. A Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter investigating the reports was also hit. Officers traced the beam to a home where Siferd was present.

He initially denied using a laser until officers told him they had video showing the beam coming from the house. Siferd then admitted he had aimed at the helicopter, but said he did not realize the beam could go all the way to the aircraft.

In March 2016 Siferd pleaded guilty to a felony indictment. In October 2016 he was sentenced to six months in a federal prison.

From the original LaserPointerSafety.com story, as updated October 15 2016.

Canada: One year conditional discharge for Winnipeg teen who aimed laser at police helicopter

Akshay Sharma, 19
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


Sharma was given a one year conditional discharge sentence, plus 30 hours of community service, on December 21 2015 for aiming a laser pointer at a Winnipeg city police helicopter in June 2015. The aircrew was temporarily distracted and disoriented.

Sharma’s lawyer said the teen “was goofing around to see how high [the laser] could project into the sky”, and did not intend to create a hazard.

Wales: Six months for Cardiff man, for aiming laser at four aircraft

Liam Chadwick, 28
St Mellons, Cardiff, Wales, UK

Liam Chadwick laser Wales

On August 1 2015, a Ryanair pilot reported seeing a green beam on takeoff from Bristol Airport. Two other aircraft had their flight paths altered because of the laser illumination. A police helicopter sent to locate the laser source found it was coming from a top-floor flat in eastern Cardiff. Ground police were sent.

After three minutes of knocking, Chadwick opened the door. Police found parts of a laser pen, which when re-assembled, produced green light.

The helicopter pilot had laser light go into his eye, and “had to see an optician to find out if he was fit to fly again,” according to the prosecutor at Chadwick’s October 2015 trial.

Chadwick’s barrister said “It was a laser pen he had bought for £1 and he didn’t realize or appreciate the consequences of what he was doing. He is deeply apologetic and says he wants to write a letter of apology to each of the pilots. He would never have played with a laser in the way he did if he had known it was a criminal act.”

Chadwick pleaded guilty to four counts of recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger aircraft (the three passenger planes and the police helicopter).

The trial judge rejected Chadwick’s plea for leniency due to his father being ill: “It was protracted behaviour, over a period of 20 minutes, and officers were directed to your home found you dismantling the pen. You say you are sorry, have entered an early guilty plea to reckless endangerment, and sadly your father is unwell. But such offences are becoming all too prevalent and it must be made absolutely plain to those who may buy these pens and behave in this way that custodial sentences are inevitable in order to deter others. In my view it is far too serious to be dealt with in any other way. The consequences to those travelling on those aircraft and to others on the ground could have been catastrophic.”

The judge sentenced Chadwick to six months in jail.

He was given an additional six months on an unrelated November 2014 charge of possessing cannabis with intent to supply, which had previously been suspended.

From the Guardian and Wales Online

Australia: $10,000 fine and court costs for Mandurah man

Raymond Alexander Moore, 40
Mandurah, Western Australia


Moore was fined AUS $10,000 (USD $9,093) on September 19 2014, for continually aiming a green laser beam at a police helicopter.

On August 25 2014, he was walking his dog and playing with the laser pointer when he decided to aim it at a helicopter overhead. His lawyer said Moore “didn’t think it would hit or reach the aircraft.” The pilot took evasive action and was “distressed” throughout the incident. When arrested, Moore told police his actions were “stupid” and he was an “idiot.”

He could have been jailed for up to three years, and fined up to $36,000. The sentencing judge said Moore was lucky to not be jailed, given that “the risk of damage was huge.”

UK: 12 months probation, 120 hours community service, £145 in fines for Nottinghamshire area woman

Leanne Martin, 20
Bircotes, Nottinghamshire, UK


Martin was sentenced August 14 2014 to 12 months of community order (probation/supervision) and 120 hours unpaid work, £85 in court costs, and a £60 victim surcharge. On January 28 2014, she aimed a laser pen about three times at a police helicopter flying over Bircotes -- even though her boyfriend told her not to aim at the aircraft. Her lawyer said Martin did not realize the laser’s power, had not read the label, and did not understand the hazard.

Australia: $2500 fine, $147 court costs, lasers destroyed for 51-year-old man

Peter Allan McArthur, 51
Parmelia, Perth, Western Australia


McArthur was sentenced on July 8 2014 to AUS $2500 in fines (USD $2350), $147 in court costs, and had two lasers destroyed. He had earlier pleaded guilty to aiming a green laser multiple times at a police helicopter. Prosecutors wanted a jail sentence, but the judge took into account McArthur’s guilty plea and his minimal record.

UK: Five months, suspended, for aiming at police helicopter

Gavin Hoskins, 26
Bristol, UK


On March 19 2014, Hoskins was sentenced to five months in jail, suspended for two years, plus he must do 200 hours of community service within 12 months. On January 20 2014, Hoskins aimed a laser pen at a National Police Air Service helicopter, to see if the beam could reach the aircraft. He said the lasing was “stupid” and was not done deliberately.

UK: £250 fine for aiming at helicopter with police on board

Gavin Brace, 25
Ryhope, Tyne and Wear, UK

On September 5 2013, Brace was fined £250 (USD $390) for directing or shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot.. On August 17 2013, Brace aimed at a helicopter being flown by a commercial pilot with two Northumbria Police officers on board. He later told police that he wanted to see how far the laser pen could reach, and that he did not realize the effect it would have on the pilot. During sentencing, the judge told Brace "I regret that the offense you are charged with can only be punished with a fine, many people will feel that is inadequate."

US: UPDATED - 30 months in jail for lasing airplane, helicopter

Adam Gardenhire, 19
North Hollywood, California, US

Adam Gardenhire laser

On March 25 2013, Gardenhire was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for aiming a “commercial grade” green laser pointer at an aircraft and a police helicopter on March 29 2012. He could have received five years in prison. The crime has a maximum prison term of up to five years. Federal sentencing guidelines recommended an 18-24 month penalty, but U.S. DIstrict Judge Stephen Wilson said he wanted to send a message that Gardenhire’s behavior was “reckless and very dangerous.”

As of March 25 2013, Gardenhire remains free on bond pending an appeal hearing in April 2013.

UPDATED April 30 2015: A three-judge federal appeals court threw out Gardenhire’s 30-month sentence. They found that although Gardenhire was aware that laser misuse could cause blindness, that information was different from “knowing that a laser beam can be distracting to pilots who are both enclosed in a cockpit and at least 2,640 feet away. Nor did the government submit any evidence of what even an average person would know about the effects of aiming a laser beam at an aircraft.” The appeals court specifically noted that U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson said the behavior was “reckless” but that this view was “determined to be erroneous.” They asked for a new sentencing hearing, from a new judge in the federal district of Los Angeles. Details at this LaserPointerSafety.com news item.

UK: 6 months in prison

Islam Ali, 19
North Kensington (London), UK

On March 6, 2011, Ali lased a police helicopter "to see how far it would go." The judge stated “This was an extremely serious offence which could have ended in several fatalities.” Ali pleaded guilty June 24 to endangering the safety of an aircraft and was sentenced July 28 2011.

US: 2 days in jail

Timothy Lyman, 25
Columbus, Ohio, US

On October 20 2010, Lyman aimed a laser pointer at a Columbus OH police helicopter. He pleaded guilty on March 15 2011 to a misdemeanor count of interfering with operation of an aircraft. Lyman apologized and said "I didn't understand what I did would have that effect." The judge sentenced Lyman to the two days in jail he had served.

US: 1 year probation, 140 hours of community service, cannot possess a laser pointer

Michael Anthony Fowler, 34
Silver Springs Shores, Marion County, Florida, US

Michael Anthony Fowler

On December 2 2010, Fowler aimed a blue laser pointer at a sheriff's helicopter. He said "I didn't even think the laser pointer could reach that far." Under a plea bargain, on March 10 2011 Fowler admitted a third-degree felony of pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot. He could have received up to five years in prison.