The U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of California reported March 10 that Sergio Patrick Rodriguez of Clovis, Calif., was sentenced to 14 years in prison for aiming a laser pointer at a Fresno police helicopter in the summer of 2012. Rodriguez’s sentence is believed to be the longest yet delivered for a laser-pointer incident. United States District Judge Lawrence O’Neill said the crime was serious with potentially deadly consequences.
On the night of the incident, the Fresno police helicopter involved had responded to an incident at the apartment complex where Rodriguez resided near Fresno. The crewmembers of both the police and another emergency medical transport helicopter also targeted testified that the laser strikes caused significant visual interference.
The laser pointer that Rodriguez used was 13 times more powerful than the permissible power emission level for hand-held laser devices. A senior research optometrist who testified at Rodriguez’s trial indicated that the laser pointer used was an instrument capable of inflicting serious bodily injury and, indirectly, death due to a high potential for crash caused by visual interference.