In United States v. Bowser, No. 1:15-CR-0088-LJO, a Fresno jury on Wednesday found a Bakersfield man guilty of one count of aiming the beam of a laser at a helicopter after a two-day trial before Judge Ishii.
In an unrelated laser strike appeal, United States v. Rodriguez, No. 14-10122, the Ninth Circuit last month reversed an EDCA conviction for attempting to interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft and the 14-year sentence. The Court held there was insufficient evidence that the defendant was willfully attempting to interfere with an aircraft and exhibited a reckless disregard for human life where he was attempting to see how far his laser would go at night and aimed it at a helicopter, but there was no evidence that he was trying to interfere with the pilot. The court remanded for resentencing on the defendant's other conviction for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, which carries a maximum 5-year sentence. Congratulations to defense attorney Carolyn Phillips who argued the case on appeal.
The U.S. Attorney's press release on the Bower verdict says that the Federal Aviation Administration received 3,894 reports of incidents involving laser strikes on aircraft in 2014, 150 of which were in the Eastern District of California. Seems like a real problem, but I wonder how many are knuckleheads who have no idea that they may be causing a real risk of harm to aircraft by aiming their laser pointers at planes in the sky.