A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

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.

US: $13,241 plus 15 days jail for aiming blue laser at ferry crew (could have been $100,000+)

Mark Raden, 27
Freeland, Washington state, US


On December 27 2016 the U.S. Coast Guard assessed a civil penalty of $9,500 against Raden for “interfering with the safe operation of a vessel” by aiming a blue laser at a Washington state ferry on October 22 2015. One of the ferry’s officers was said to have burns on his eyelid.

Raden also pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment in Island County Superior Court. He was ordered to serve 15 days in jail, perform 240 hours of community service, pay $3,740.89 in restitution to the master and chief mate, and serve 24 months probation.

On April 26 2016, the Coast Guard issued a civil penalty of $100,000 against Raden. According to a Coast Guard press release at the time, “Coast Guard officials are seeking civil penalties for violation of a safety and security zone as well as interference with the safe operation of the Tokitae [ferry] while it transited between Mukilteo and Clinton [in Washington state]. The final civil penalty amount [which turned out to be $9,500] will be determined by a Coast Guard Hearing Officer in Arlington, Va.”

A Coast Guard spokesperson told Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica "Originally there were multiple charges that brought the maximum amount to $100,000 [as] referenced in the original [press] release. Ultimately the hearing officer has the final say and chose to only pursue the one charge for 'interfering with the safe operation of a vessel' and assessed a fine of $9,500."

Raden has previously been in trouble for misusing a laser. In July 2015, Raden and his friend Dillon Reisman, 27, were aiming a laser into house windows in Langley, Washington, in order to “cause alarm to anyone trying to sleep.” When confronted by police, Raden repeatedly aimed the laser beam into an officer’s face. Felony charges were not filed until November 18 2015.

In yet another incident, police said Raden was accused of using a laser and acid as weapons.

From the Chronicle, the San Juan Islander and Ars Technica. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story about the incident is here; an updated story with news about Raden’s arrest and the Coast Guard penalty is here. Additional details of Raden’s previous run-ins over misusing lasers can be found in an April 11 2016 HeraldNet story.

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.

US: Two years in prison for Ohio man who violated probation on laser pointer charge

Travis D. Krzysztofiak, 37
Boardman, Ohio, US


Travis Krzysztofiak laser

On June 15 2013, Krzysztofiak aimed a laser pointer at a medical helicopter coming to land at Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman, Ohio. In January 2014, he pleaded guilty to violating the 2012 federal law making it illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft, or the flight path of an aircraft.

In May 2014 Krzysztofiak was sentenced to three years probation, nine months home monitoring, and 200 hours of community service. He also was required to submit to regular drug and alcohol testing, and to be in a detoxification program. (He had previous court records for drug and probation violations in 2005 and 2010.)

However, on August 24 2016, Krzysztofiak was sentenced to two years in federal prison for violating his probation. The nature of the violation was not listed in court records.

US: 15 months in prison for California man who aimed a laser at a sheriff's helicopter

Mario Deleon Lopez, 35
Santa Ana, California, US


Lopez was sentenced August 23 2016 to 15 months in federal prison for intentionally aiming a laser pointer at an Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.

On November 14, 2015, the OCSD helicopter was responding to a traffic accident, looking for any victims who may have been thrown from an overturned vehicle. The helicopter was illuminated multiple times by green laser light. The tactical flight officer called the multiple strikes “relentless.”

The helicopter crew was able to direct police on the ground to the backyard of a residence. Lopez was arrested on state charges of pointing a laser at an aircraft. After an investigation conducted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Ana Police Department and the FBI, Lopez was indicted on federal charges which culminated in his August 2016 prison sentence.

UK: Eight and six month sentences for two Leicester men

Martin Gary Jayes, 46, and Oktawain Kamil Plaskiewicz, 22
New Parks, Leicester, UK


On March 9 2016, the two men aimed the green beam of a laser pen at a police helicopter, forcing it to abort its mission to find a missing person. The helicopter pilot directed ground officers to a park where they found Jayes and Plaskiewicz. Each said the other was using the laser.

They pleaded guilty to charges of recklessly or negligently endangering the safety of an aircraft and those traveling within it.

On July 22 2016, Jayes was sentenced to eight months in jail, and Plaskiewicz was sentenced to six months. (Jayes previously had 71 convictions on his criminal record and was in breach of a community order at the time of his arrest.)

Ireland: Six months in jail for shining a laser pen at a police helicopter

Alan Armstrong, 35
Greenisland, County Antrim, Northern Ireland


On September 19 2015, Armstrong repeatedly aimed a green laser at a Police Service of Northern Ireland helicopter. At trial, he said he was annoyed by the aircraft flying over his house. The laser was aimed at least five times, one of which lasted about 30 seconds continuously on the helicopter.

The judge said Armstrong’s actions could have resulted in a crash, and thus warranted a prison sentence. He was sentenced around April 20 2016.

From the Belfast Telegraph

US: 18 months for lasing a California sheriff's helicopter

Pablo Cesar Sahagun, 26
Resides in Bakersfield, California, US; a citizen of Mexico


Sometime in 2015, Sahagun aimed a green laser pointer at a Kern County sheriff’s helicopter. He was convicted on April 18 2016 and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

UK: 20 weeks in prison for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter

Philip Houghton, 25
Edison Grove, Hull, UK


Philip Houghton laser

On January 9 2016, Houghton aimed a £9 (USD $13) laser pen at a Humberside Police helicopter. He later pleaded guilty. On February 18 2016, he was sentenced at Hull Magistrates Court to 20 weeks in prison.

US: Thirteen months in prison for aiming a laser at a police helicopter

Orlando Jose Chapa, 37
Dallas, Texas, US


Orlando Jose Chapa laser

On May 30 2015, Chapa was in his driveway when he aimed a laser pointer at a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter. He was arrested on September 23, and pleaded guilty on November 3. Chapa was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison on February 18 2016.

US: Six months in prison, 3 years probation for aiming a laser at a police helicopter

Johnny Alexander Quenga, 29
Fresno, California, US


Johnny Quenga laser

On March 15 2015, Quenga illuminated a Fresno Police Department helicopter with a green laser beam about six times over ten minutes. A patrol car sent to the location, to find the laser source, was broadsided by a civilian SUV. Both officers had serious injuries; the SUV occupants suffered minor injuries. When Quenga was found by other officers, he had been listening to police radios and knew they were looking for him.

In October 2015, Quenga pleaded guilty. On January 19 2016, Quenga was sentenced to six months in prison, and three years supervised release.

Quenga’s troubles may not be over. Ars Technica quoted prosecutor Karen Escobar as saying “We are still litigating the restitution portion of the case. In that regard, a hearing on restitution has been set for May 16. We are seeking the uninsured losses in connection with the accident of the first responders that Quenga was monitoring via his police radio scanner iPhone app."

Scotland: One year in jail for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

Craig Ryan, 23
Stevenston, North Ayrshire, Scotland

Craig Ryan laser

In September 2014, a Police Scotland helicopter was illuminated several times with green laser light while looking for a gunman. The pilot had to take evasive action. The beam was tracked to Ryan’s home. Ryan told officers, “I’m sorry, it was me.”

In December 2015, Ryan admitted “culpable and reckless conduct.” He was sentenced to one year in jail.

From the Scotsman and BBC News

US: One year in jail plus three months probation for lasing plane, helicopters

Enrique Felix Gomez, 19
Gardenia, California, US


Gomez pleaded no contest September 14 2015 to aiming a high-powered green laser at an aircraft, and then at Los Angeles County fire and police helicopters on February 14 2015. Gomez, of Gardenia Calif., was sentenced November 2 2015 to one year in jail and three years probation. From MyNewsLA.com

US: Two years in prison for Calif. man who aimed "powerful green laser" at helicopter

Barry Lee Bowser, 52
Bakersfield, California, US

On September 28 2015, Bowser was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison plus three years of supervised release and a $10,000 “special assessment fee”, for aiming a “powerful green laser” at a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter.

From an FBI press release: “In June [2015], a federal jury found Bowser guilty of aiming 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, 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 published a public apology, which said that the incident had ruined his life: “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.”

Original LaserPointerSafety.com story here; story with complete apology letter here.

US: 6 months for targeting up to 25 aircraft in Portland

Stephen Francis Bukucs, 41
Portland, Oregon, US

Stephen Francis Bukucs laser

Bukucs was sentenced to 6 months in federal prison on March 16 2015 for two felony counts of aiming a laser pointer at commercial jetliners as they approached Portland International Airport in October 2013.

On July 15, 2014, Bukucs pleaded guilty to aiming his green laser at United Airlines Flight 1406 and Jet Blue Flight 1205 as they flew over his apartment in Northeast Portland on October 13, 2013. His arrest occurred after intense air and ground surveillance by FBI agents and police officers. Investigators reported over 100 laser strikes from the vicinity of defendant’s apartment in 2013, the government stated to the court.

After his prison term, Bukucs must also serve three years of supervised release. From an FBI news release.

US: 37 months for aiming a laser at two news helicopters while stopped in traffic

Damien Wade Conley, 33
Chesnee, South Carolina, US


Conley was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison on November 4 2014. On November 20 2013, he pointed a laser at two news helicopters that were covering an accident; Conley was stuck in traffic at the time.

US: One year in prison for aiming a laser at a California Highway Patrol airplane

Andrew Zarate, 20
Fresno, California, US


Zarate was sentenced November 3 2014 to one year in prison and two years of supervised release, for aiming a laser at a California Highway Patrol aircraft. He could have received five years and a $250,000 fine for illuminating Air 43 up to 50 times with a “powerful green laser pointer” according to the FBI.

During the incident, the pilot suffered temporary blindness and Air 43 was forced to break away from a burglary in progress at a Fresno middle school.

Zarate’s co-defendent, David Walter Fee, was sentenced in September 2014 to 18 months in prison.

US: Two years in prison for Texas man who lased police helicopter

Gabriel Soza Ruedas Jr., 25
Austin, Texas, US


Gabriel Soza Ruedas laser

Ruedas was sentenced October 2 2014 to two years in federal prison, with an additional three years probation after his release. On July 7 2014, he had pleaded guilty to one count of pointing a laser at an aircraft.

On February 15 2014, Ruedas aimed a laser at an Austin police department helicopter coming in to land at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The pilot was distracted, but was able to relay the laser’s location to ground officers who arrested Ruedas.

US: 18 months in prison for aiming a laser at a California Highway Patrol airplane

David Walter Fee, 22
Fresno, California, US


Fee was sentenced September 29 2014 to 18 months in prison, plus two years of supervised release, for aiming a laser at a California Highway Patrol aircraft. He could have received five years and a $250,000 fine for illuminating Air 43 up to 50 times with a “powerful green laser pointer” according to the FBI.

During the incident, the pilot suffered temporary blindness and Air 43 was forced to break away from a burglary in progress at a Fresno middle school.

Zarate’s co-defendent, Andrew Zarate, was sentenced November 3 2014 to one year in prison.

US: Two years for two-time laser offender in Las Vegas area

James David Zipf, 30
Henderson, Nevada, US


Zipf was sentenced to two years in prison on September 23 2014, for lasing police helicopters. He was also ordered to undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment.

On January 30 2014, Zipf aimed a blue laser four times at a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department helicopter, from the second story window of his house. On February 3 2014 he twice aimed the laser at a LVMPD helicopter. In June 2014, Zipf pleaded guilty to one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He was sentenced under the February 2012 U.S. federal law making it illegal to point a laser at an aircraft, or the flight path of an aircraft.

Zipf has been convicted in 2011 in Phoenix of pointing a blue laser at a police helicopter. It is not known what fine or sentence, if any, came out of the 2011 conviction.

UK: 16 and 12 week sentences for Birmingham-area men

Claudio Bruno, 48
Bloxwich, West Midlands, UK
Carl Keates, 23
Walsall, West Midlands, UK


On September 2 2014, Bruno was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail, and Keates was sentenced to 12 weeks, for aiming at a West Midlands police helicopter for about 25 minutes in a “repeated and prolonged attack”. Both men pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft.

US: Ohio man gets one month in prison, two years probation for lying about laser incident

Ronald E. Deal, Sr, 57
McComb, Ohio, US


Deal was sentenced on August 25 2014 to one month in prison followed by two years of probation. He had pleaded guilty to making a false statement or representation to a department or agency of the United States.

Between August 5 and 9 2012, he told investigators he did not know about a June 17 2012 incident where a laser pointer was aimed at an aircraft, and that he later falsely took the blame for the incident.

US: Two years for 24-year-old woman

Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 24
Clovis, California, US


In the summer of 2012, Coleman and her then-boyfriend, Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, 26, were arrested for repeatedly aiming a green laser at a Fresno Police Department helicopter. It had been called out to investigate an earlier illumination of a children’s hospital medical helicopter. On May 12 2014, Coleman was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for aiming a laser pointer at a law enforcement aircraft. Rodriguez had earlier been sentenced to 14 years in prison: eight for the laser incident and an additional six due to his prior criminal record.

UPDATED October 29 2016: Coleman’s sentence was revoked after review by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She received five years probation instead. From Courthouse News Service

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.

US: UPDATED: 14 -- no, 5 -- years for California man, due in part to past criminal record (overturned June 2015)

Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, 26
Clovis, California, US

Sergio Patrick Rodriguez laser
In the summer of 2012, Rodriguez and his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, were arrested for repeatedly aiming a green laser at a Fresno Police Department helicopter. It had been called out to investigate an earlier illumination of a children’s hospital medical helicopter. On December 20 2013, Rodriguez was found guilty of interfering with an aircraft (penalty up to 20 years in prison) and of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft (penalty up to 5 years in prison). Coleman was also found guilty of aiming a laser pointer. On March 10 2014, Rodriguez was sentenced to 14 years in prison. On May 12 2014, Coleman was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

This is by far the longest sentence anywhere in the world for a laser/aircraft incident (see here for sentences of 37-48 months and here for sentences over 4 years). Rodriguez’s extensive past criminal record was a key factor helping to increase the length of the sentence; the judge called him a “walking crime spree.”

UPDATED June 24 2015: The 14-year sentence was overturned by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The judges did uphold Rodriguez’s conviction for aiming a laser pointer at a helicopter, saying this conviction “is designed for knuckleheads like him.” This conviction carried a 5-year sentence.

But they overturned Rodriguez’s conviction — and his subsequent 14-year sentence — for willfully attempting to interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft in reckless disregard for human safety. The court noted that the second conviction "is designed for both the Osama bin Ladens of the world - people trying to bring down a plane, intending to cause harm - and those who are aware that their actions are dangerous and could harm others, but just don't care…. The failure to recognize this distinction is to fail to appreciate that Congress saw fit to create two different crimes, one more serious than the other, for two different types of offenders.”

Judge Barry Silverman, writing for the panel, said that Rodriguez's intentionally shining the laser at the helicopter "is not, in and of itself, sufficient to allow a rational factfinder to conclude that Rodriguez acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life.” Silverman also wrote that “….the evidence showed that he was attempting to see how far his laser would go at night – a stupid thing to do, yes, but there is no evidence that he was trying to interfere with the pilot.”

UPDATED November 4 2016: Rodriguez appealed the June 2015 5-year sentence. On October 17 2016, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 5-year sentence. In an unpublished, unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel found the sentence was reasonable, even though advisory guidelines call for a sentence of only 21 to 27 months (1.75 to 2.25 years).

This was due to a number of factors: 1) “Rodriguez increased the dangerousness of the offense by striking the helicopter six or seven times,”, 2) minor children were involved, 3) he had a criminal history including gang involvement and 4) he was on probation when the laser illuminations occurred. From Ars Technica, Pasadena News Now and Courthouse News Service

US: 21 months for Calif. man "who can't help himself from doing stupid things"

Charles Conrad Mahaffey, 23
Clovis, California, US


On January 27 2014, Mahaffey was sentenced to 21 months in prison for aiming a “powerful red laser” at a Fresno County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. The pilot was distracted by the light and broke off the mission. In November 2013 Mahaffey pleaded guilty, saying he knew it was a crime to point a laser at an aircraft but said he “just can’t help himself from doing stupid things.”

US: 45 days in jail, 18 months probation for aiming at police helicopter

Michael Rademacher, 27
Columbus, Ohio, US

On March 21 2013, Rademacher aimed a blue laser at a Columbus police helicopter “because he was bored.” One pilot said it was the brightest laser he had ever seen. The pilots were able to locate the source, and directed ground units to Rademacher’s home. He pleaded guilty in September 2013 to one felony count of possession of criminal tools; a more-serious charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft with a laser was dismissed as part of the plea agreement. On November 7 2013, Rademacher was sentenced to 45 days in the Franklin County jail and 18 months of probation. If he violates probation, he will be imprisoned for 12 months.

US: Texas man gets 18 months in prison for aiming at Homeland Security helicopter

Magarito Tristan III, 28
Donna, Texas, US


Margarito Tristan laser
On September 25 2013, Magarito Tristan III was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus an additional two years of supervised release following his term, for aiming a laser pointer at a Customs and Border Patrol helicopter. The 28-year-old from Donna, Texas, had previously pleaded guilty in July 2013 to one felony count of aiming a laser at an aircraft. He has been in custody since the March 7 2013 incident. The pilot wrote to the court that he felt he was under attack and that bullets would be fired at the aircraft.

US: Jail, probation, community service for "bored" Kentucky man who aimed gunsight at police helicopter

Steven French, 50
Lexington, Kentucky, US


Steven French laser
On September 4 2013, French pleaded guilty in state court to second-degree wanton endangerment. 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. 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.

US: 30 months in federal prison for lasing police helicopter

Kenneth Santodomingo, 22
Dallas, Texas, US

Kenneth Santodomingo laser
On July 25 2013, Santodomingo was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison, for the January 28 2013 lasing of a helicopter. A green laser beam was aimed at Dallas Police Department’s Air One at least four times over 10 minutes. The beam led back to Santodomingo’s house, where ground officers arrested him. The 22-year-old admitted to aiming at the helicopter, saying he wanted to see how far it would go. He pleaded guilty on February 28 2013.

US: 2 years jail, 3 years probation for lasing helicopter; earlier fine of $9,000

Michael A. Smith
Omaha, Nebraska, US

On July 22 2013, Smith was sentenced to two years in federal prison to be followed by a 3-year term of supervised release. He had been convicted April 24 2013 of aiming a laser at an Omaha police helicopter “six or seven times” on July 11 2012. The police were looking for the source of an earlier red laser aimed at a Southwest Airlines flight that was landing in Omaha. According to one news report, Smith had previously been fined $9,000 by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

US: 3 months jail, 7 months home supervision, 3 years probation

Daniel Dangler, 30
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

On April 10 2013, Dangler was
sentenced to three months in jail plus seven months home confinement and three years supervised release, for aiming a green laser at a news media helicopter on July 18 2012. He pleaded guilty on October 17 2012. Dangler still faces FAA civil charges that could result in a penalty up to $11,000.

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.

US: 1 year in jail and 2 years probation, partner gets 60 days community service and three years probation

Floyd Atkins, 22, and Alvarado Jimenez, 20
Los Angeles, California, US

On July 4 2011, Atkins and Jiminez were arrested on multiple charges for lasing a LAPD helicopter. They also were suspected of previous incidents of aiming at airlines landing at Los Angeles International Airport. On November 1 2012, Atkins was sentenced to one year in county jail, two years probation, and $200 in fines and fees. Jiminez was sentenced in September 2012 to 60 days of Caltrans service and three years probation.

US: 90 days in jail, 3 years probation for shining lasers at three aircraft

Michael Andrew Cerise, 47
Phoenix, Arizona, US

Michael Cerise laser

On November 9 2011, Cerise aimed a green laser at two commercial aircraft. One was forced to veer off of a final approach, to avoid the laser light. A police helicopter sent to investigate was also lased. Ground units found a laser hidden in Cerise's couch cushions. Cerise eventually admitted aiming at the aircraft to see how far it could go. Authorities said three pilots were temporarily blinded during the incidents.

On August 8 2012, Cerise was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years supervised probation.

UK: 6 months in jail for six-minute lasing of helicopter

Alexander Nicholls, 23
Weston-super-Mare, Avon, UK

Alexander Nicholls laser

On May 12 2012, Nicholls aimed a blue laser pen at a police helicopter for about six minutes. On July 16 2012, he pleaded guilty to one count of recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or people in an aircraft. He was sentenced to six months in jail.

Scotland: 9 months in jail

Christopher Paton, 22
Glasgow, Scotland
On September 12 2009, Paton repeatedly aimed his green laser at a police helicopter that was searching for two lost 4-year-olds. The crew filmed the location of the laser, enabling ground officers to easily find and arrest Paton. In April 2012, he was sentenced to nine months in jail for endangering the crew.

US: 10 days in jail plus 3 years probation

Clark James Gable III, 22 at time of arrest
Hollywood, California US

Pic 2013-03-26 at 9.07.10 PM

On July 28 2011, Gable was arrested for aiming a green laser at a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter. On December 8 2011, he pleaded guilty to one felony count of "discharge of a laser at an occupied aircraft". In exchange for the guilty plea, other charges were dropped that could have put Gable in jail for three years.

At sentencing on January 12 2012, he received 10 days in jail plus three years probation. He had been expected to receive 200 hours of community work service, but that provision appears to have been dropped since the December 8 guilty plea.

The case received widespread publicity because Gable is the grandson of actor Clark Gable, famed as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind and for appearing in 66 other movies.

US: Time served (7 months in jail) plus 1 year probation

Jeffrey Lee Gentry, 33
Bakersfield, California US
On November 6 2010, Gentry was arrested for aiming a laser four times at a Kern County Sheriff's Office helicopter. The pilot suffered temporary spots in his eyes, and was disoriented enough that the aircraft went off course. On January 9 2012, Gentry was sentenced to time served (he had been in jail seven months) and one year of probation.

UK: 4 months in jail

David Checkley, 21
Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside UK
On October 22 2011, Checkley lased a St Helens police air support helicopter. He pleaded guilty to “acting recklessly or negligently in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft”. On November 23 2011, Checkley was sentenced to four months in jail, and his laser pen was destroyed by police.

UK: 6 months in jail

Wayne Junior French, 19
Birmingham, UK
On September 11 2011, French illuminated a commercial flight. A West Midlands Air Support helicopter was sent to investigate and was also lased by French. He pleaded guilty to lasing the police helicopter and on October 20 2011 was sentenced to six months in jail. French's lawyer said he had learning difficulties and was "immature."

US: 5 days in jail, 3 years probation, 180 hours community service

Kimberly Rogers, 27
Compton, California, US


Pic 2011-09-26 at 2.01.54 PM
On September 23 2011, Rogers was arrested for illuminating a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter with a green laser. This came as the helicopter was searching for the source of a laser that illuminated a commercial airplane landing at Los Angeles International Airport.

According to a January 2014 article in Smithsonian Air & Space magazine, Rogers “pleaded no contest and was sentenced to five days in jail, three years probation, and 180 hours of community service.” The dates of the plea and the sentence are not known.

UK: 16 months in prison

Joshua Bough, 28
Small Heath, Birmingham, UK

On March 28 2011, Bough aimed at laser pointer at a police helicopter. He tried to claim he was aiming to help find a lost puppy; the judge said this "did not ring true." Bough pleaded guilty to endangering the safety of an aircraft and was sentenced August 24 2011.

US: 2 months in prison, other penalties, for spotlight (not laser) incident

Wayne Groen, 42
Lynden, Washington, US

On September 22 2010, Groen aimed a spotlight (not a laser) at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter, at a time when local residents had been complaining about border agents' actions. On April 28 2011, a jury found Groen not guilty of interfering with the authorized operation of an aircraft. They found him guilty of incapacitation of an individual during authorized operation of an aircraft.

Groen was sentenced on August 4 2011 to two months in prison, 90 days of home detention, 120 hours of community service, three years of community supervision and a $5,000 fine.

UK: 3 months in prison

David Taylor, 18
Newcastle, UK

On March 12 2011, Taylor aimed a green laser pen multiple times at a Northumbria Police helicopter. The judge said "This sort of behaviour is not a game or prank, it is extremely serious …. they are committing a criminal offence." Taylor was sentenced in July 2011 for recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft.

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.

UK: 6 months in prison for lasers, plus 6 months for theft

Richard Anthony Oliver, 23
Newcastle, UK



On June 6 2011, Oliver aimed a laser pen at a Northumbria Police helicopter. The judge called Oliver "a dangerous idiot." Oliver was sentenced July 26 2011 for directing a light at an aircraft to distract a pilot.

US: 6 months in jail, 100 hours of community service

Kevin Wayne Foster, 39
Shasta Lake, California, US



In December 2010, Foster aimed a laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter. Under a plea bargain, two felony charges were dropped (assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and discharging a laser). He could have faced four years in prison if convicted on the felonies.

Foster pleaded no contest to misdemeanors of interfering with an aircraft, and pointing a laser at a peace officer. He was sentenced June 20 2011 to time served (about 6 months) and was ordered to 100 hours of community service giving presentations on the dangers of laser pointers.

US: 18 months in prison

Lenny Tavarez, 19
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

In October 2008, Tavarez aimed a laser at a Philadelphia police helicopter. The pilot was temporarily blinded, felt a sudden intense pain in his eye, and “lost control”; his co-pilot took over. Tavarez was sentenced May 13 2011.

UK: 6 months in prison

Jonathan Quantrill, 21
North Shields, North Tyneside, UK

On August 22 2010, after drinking two cans of beer, Quantrill repeatedly aimed a laser at a Northumbria Police helicopter. He pleaded guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. At his sentencing April 15 2011, the judge said, "Others should know if they behave as you did they are likely to go to prison."

In addition to the 6 month prison term, Quantrill "had a dream of being in the airforce [RAF] but this conviction has already destroyed that.”

UK: 8 months in jail

Jarome Tomlinson, 21
Maidstone, Kent, UK
On June 24 2010, Tomlinson deliberately tracked a Kent and Essex police helicopter. The pilot had to take a hand off the controls in order to shield his eyes. Tomlinson was charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a way likely to endanger an aircraft. At sentencing on April 15 2011, the judge gave Tomlinson an 8-month jail term, as a deterrent to others.

US; 33 months in prison, $10,000 fine

James Gautieri, 53
Williamsport, Pennsylvania, US

On April 30 2008, Gautieri illuminated a police helicopter in Philadelphia. He was sentenced April 13 2011 to 33 months in prison for interference with an aircraft. The judge called Gautieri a "liar" for claiming he was using the laser to follow stars.

US: 1 month in jail, 18 months probation, 1 month in sheriff's work program

Elvin Slater, 24
Chicago, Illinois, US

On March 17 2011, Slater and another person aimed a laser at a commercial aircraft and then at a police helicopter. Slater pleaded guilty on April 1 2011for the misdemeanor of unlawful use of a weapon.

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: 3 years in prison

Gerard Sasso, 52
Medford, Massachusetts, US

On December 8 2007, Sasso lased a Massachusetts state police helicopter at least five times. He denied using the laser until police saw a laser pointer on his bedside table. Eleven lasers were seized from his apartment. Sasso was found guilty January 11 2011 of willfully interfering with an aircraft operator with reckless disregard for human life and making false statements.

US: 3 years in prison

Anton Strom, 24
King City, Washington County, Oregon, US
On July 17 2010, Strom aimed a "powerful, industrial grade" green laser at a sheriff's deputy. The deputy thought the laser could be on a weapon; he pulled his gun and prepared to fire on Strom. The deputy has degraded vision and permanent retinal scarring in his left eye.

Strom was charged with two counts of second-degree assault and one count of unlawful use of a weapon. He pled guilty to one second-degree assault count, as part of a plea bargain reducing his sentence from the minimum six years, to three years. He was sentenced in December 2010.

US: 15 months in prison, 3 years probation

Nathan Ramon Wells, 19
Cathedral City (near Palm Springs), California, US



On June 3 2009, Wells aimed a green laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter. In July 2010, he pleaded guilty to the felony of willfully interfering with an operator of an aircraft. Wells was sentenced October 25 2010. The assistant U.S. attorney said "This was a very serious crime that deserved prison time."

US: 1 year in prison, 3 years probation

Robert Duane Nighswander, 44
Orland, California, US

On October 21 2009, Nighswander aimed a green laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter at least four times. He was sentenced September 28 2010 for using a laser to interfere with an aircraft.

UK: 4 months in prison

Radu Moldovan, 28
Romanian migrant, working in UK

radu-moldovan

On August 16 2010, Moldovan illuminated an RAF Tornado jet for up to ten seconds. He pleaded guilty to culpably and recklessly endangering a military aircraft on September 16 2010.

US: 2 years in prison, $500 in court costs

Clint Jason Brenner, 36
Prescott, Arizona, US

Pasted Graphic

On December 9 2009, Brenner illuminated an Arizona police helicopter with a green laser pointer. He was found guilty of two counts of endangerment in April 2010. Brenner was sentenced on May 24 2010 to two years on each count, with the terms to run concurrently. He was also ordered to pay $500 in court costs.

US: 4 years in prison

Jamie Allen Downie, 35
Rocklin, California, US



In July 2009, Downie aimed a laser at a sheriff's helicopter. He pleaded guilty to two felony counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft. Downie was sentenced January 22 2010.

US: 30 months in prison

Dana Christian Welch, 37
Orange, California, US



On May 21 2008, Welch aimed a laser at two commercial jets landing at John Wayne Airport. He was found guilty in April 2009 of interfering with pilots. Welch was sentenced November 2 2009.

US: 37 months in prison, 3 years probation

Baltazar O. Valladares, 30
Roseville, California, US



On March 16 2009, Valladares aimed a green laser at a sheriff's helicopter searching for the person who earlier illuminated a commercial airplane. Valladares pleaded guilty in June 2009 to interfering with the safe operation of the helicopter, but denied illuminating the airplane. He was sentenced to 37 months in prison, plus three years of probation, in October 2009.