A federal appeals court on Thursday vacated a 2 1/2-year prison sentence handed to a North Hollywood man who shined a laser at a business jet and then aimed the “commercial-grade” device at a police helicopter sent to find the source.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena ordered that 21-year-old Adam Gardenhire be resentenced in Los Angeles federal court.
Gardenhire pleaded guilty in October 2012 to a single federal count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.
At sentencing the following year, the court applied an enhancement for “reckless endangerment.”
In its ruling, the 9th Circuit determined that the district court erred in concluding that Gardenhire “acted recklessly when he aimed his laser beam at the aircraft,” when the record is devoid of evidence that the defendant was “aware of the risk created by his conduct.”
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Gardenhire pointed the laser at a Cessna Citation on March 29, 2012, as the pilot was preparing to land at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, leaving the pilot with vision impairment that lasted several hours.
Gardenhire then aimed the device at a Pasadena police helicopter that had been dispatched to find the source of the laser that had been pointed at the Cessna, prosecutors said, noting that the helicopter pilot was wearing protecting eye gear and did not suffer any injury.
Prosecutors said laser beams, even penlight-style pointers, can temporarily blind pilots. Though lasers project a tiny beam over relatively short distances, the diameter of the beam grows significantly over the distance of a few miles.
— City News Service