Photo courtesy of Flickr/frankieleon
A Kansas City man was sentenced to three years in federal prison for shining a laser beam at a police helicopter.
A 24-year-old in Kansas City has been sentenced to three years in a federal prison — simply for pointing a laser at a police helicopter.
Jordan Rogers was on his porch one day in 2013 when he heard a helicopter hovering and "thought it would be fun to try to hit it." So he did. That impulse turned out to have serious consequences.
Federal prosecutors asked a judge to give Rogers four years, arguing in part that the court needed to make an example of him.
"This statute was enacted to stop a new and dangerous problem," U.S. Assistant Attorney Brian Casey wrote in the request, "and there is value in a long custodial sentence in this case to serve as a notice to the public that striking an aircraft with laser pointers is not a 'teenage prank,' but instead a serious federal crime."
Prosecutors say the pilot of the Kansas City, Missouri, police helicopter suffered "eye strain that lasted for hours after the incident."
Rogers' attorney argued that her client, like most people, did not know shining a laser pointer was likely to cause any damage.
"He told police that he wasn't trying to hurt anyone and that he had no 'acknowledge' [sic] of what could happen if he hit an aircraft," defense attorney Carie Allen wrote in court documents.
She added that others convicted of similar or worse offenses had gotten off much easier. A federal judge in Nevada sentenced a Las Vegas man to two years for a second, laser-pointing offense. A serial laser pointer in Oregon was sentenced to just six months for aiming his beam at more than 25 planes at Portland International Airport.
Rogers' criminal history probably didn't help him much when it came to asking for mercy. Prosecutors noted that he already has three felony convictions and a misdemeanor in fourteen other cases.
"Put simply, this defendant's criminal history is horrendous, and this Court should provide that factor substantial weight when determining the appropriate sentence," Casey wrote.
The argument was apparently persuasive enough to persuade U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner to drop the hammer. Along with a sentence of 36 months, the judge ordered Rogers to spend three years after he gets out on supervised release.
We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at email@example.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.