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Man Who Pointed Laser At Aircraft Gets 30-Month Sentence 761

coondoggie writes "In a move federal prosecutors hope sends a strong message to the knuckleheads who point lasers at aircraft for fun, a California man was sentenced to 30 months in prison for shining one at two aircraft. According to the FBI Adam Gardenhire, 19, was arrested on March 29, 2012 and named in a two-count indictment filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles that said he pointed the beam of a laser at a private plane and a police helicopter that responded to the report."
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Man Who Pointed Laser At Aircraft Gets 30-Month Sentence

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  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZorinLynx ( 31751 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:23AM (#43281221) Homepage

    It's because of idiots like this that we can't have nice toys. Laser pointers get banned and people who buy them get looked on with suspicion. All because some morons think pointing them at aircraft is a good idea.

    How about we punish the idiots, and let the rest of us have our toys?

    • Re:Good. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:31AM (#43281309)

      Of course a very remote secondary consideration is not blinding the pilot and causing a planeload of passengers to crash. A very remote consideration compared to getting my geek on.

      • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

        by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @01:29PM (#43282787) Journal

        I'm going to take in seriousness something said in jest, but that's what geeks do... I read recently that the laser doesn't actually drill right through the cockpit window and quick-fry the retinas of the pilots, Rather, the beam splashes on the window, making it difficult or impossible to see out while the beam is in play. Which is still a really bad thing (and a phenomenally stupid thing to do at many levels) ESPECIALLY at low altitude approaching an airport, but is not exactly the same thing as smoking two sets of eyes and leaving the plane permanently pilotless. The article was making the case that the talk of permanently blinding pilots is conventional justice-system-driven hyperbole to make the crime seem worse than it is. (Which in my opinion is unnecessary. It's a stupid move that really could have dire consequences, so I'm ok with offenders going to jail. Eventually the word will get around.)

        • What I'm wondering is how people get caught? The aircraft *might* be able to pinpoint a general area, but one would think that by the time the coppers arrive, the asshole has put it away?

        • Re:Good. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by asylumx ( 881307 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:07PM (#43283875)

          but is not exactly the same thing as smoking two sets of eyes and leaving the plane permanently pilotless.

          I am a private pilot, and you should be aware that without the threat of lasers shining on your windscreen, 56% of fatal aircraft accidents happen during the takeoff, initial climb, final approach and landing phases of flight (where it's possible to shine one of these lasers). This represents approximately 6% of the total time of an average flight. Let me repeat: 56% of fatal accidents happen during the same 6% of a flight.

          Given that these are already the most stressful parts of the flight for the pilot, adding stress like not being able to see is insanely bad news. If this had happened at night, it could have temporarily blinded the pilot, long enough to lose control of the plane on the initial climb and stall it out. If it had happened on the final approach or landing, especially on a windy day, the pilot would have missed the runway and likely cratered.

          Picking nits about whether the pilot was permanently blinded or not won't matter so much once everyone aboard (and likely some on the ground) are dead because of the incident.

          Reference: http://planecrashinfo.com/cause.htm [planecrashinfo.com]

    • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

      by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:31AM (#43281313)

      yeah so very sad we can no longer buy laser pointers online powerful enough to bore holes through solid materials....oh wait, you can

      http://www.wickedlasers.com.hk/arctic [wickedlasers.com.hk]

      • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:41AM (#43281463)

        You can't import anything into the US over 5mW.

      • Most cheap "lasers" you buy are not true lasers, running on LEDs. I wonder if this is different, or a "true" laser. I also wonder why it would need a focus lens to stay focused for ~100 ft (as per video from their web site). IMHO a quality laser shouldn't have a problem keeping focus for that short distance.
        • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

          by sFurbo ( 1361249 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:45PM (#43282301)

          Most cheap "lasers" you buy are not true lasers, running on LEDs.

          How are LED lasers not true lasers?

          . I also wonder why it would need a focus lens to stay focused for ~100 ft (as per video from their web site).

          because of the size of the lasing medium. Given the smallest radius of the beam, which of course can't be larger than the exit aperture of the optics, or the size of the lasing medium if no optics are used, and the wave length, the minimum dispersion angle can be determined. IIRC, the dispersion angle for a LED laser is something like 30 degrees before the optics, because the lasing medium is roughly the size of the wavelength.

    • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frederic54 ( 3788 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:37AM (#43281421) Journal
      same for magnets, banned them because some people can eat them...
      • Re:Good. (Score:4, Informative)

        by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:46AM (#43281539) Journal
        Toddlers were eating those tiny magnet balls... which is a problem since it'll effectively punch holes in your intestines and kill you. It's not like it was grown men doing it.
        • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:54AM (#43281627) Homepage Journal

          The problem is not the toddlers, or the magnets. The problem is the parents.

          • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:14PM (#43281889)

            Except that the magnets are small and easily missed by parents, especially if they've fallen on the floor at a friend's house.

            The fact is that at some point, you do have to recognize societal responsibilities, these aren't always obvious without benefit of hindsight.

            • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:41PM (#43282259)
              I don't see anything in your post that absolves the parents from their responsibilities to watch their children. Especially if your children are at the age where they instinctively put things in their mouths, you need to watch them at all times. If your friend has loaded guns lying around his house, is it the gun's fault for going off when the child picks it up?

              -- green led
              • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

                by femtobyte ( 710429 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @02:15PM (#43283297)

                So, you bring your toddler over to a friend's house, and see a plastic squirt gun and a teddy bear on the coffee table --- double-check that the squirt gun is really a squirt gun, and it's no problem, right?

                After your toddler blows her head off, you realize that the teddy bear was a loaded custom-designed teddy-bear-shaped semi-automatic pistol with the safety off.

                That's the problem with the magnet systems --- they look like fairly harmless kids' toys, so unless a parent already *knows* how dangerous the clusters of shiny marbles in their geeky friend's apartment are (like they would know a gun-shaped gun is), they're unlikely to be sufficiently protective of their child until a few days too late.

          • by Destoo ( 530123 )

            The problem is not even the parents.
            The problem is affixing the magnet in a piece that can break or be sucked by the toddler.
            Just like there are regulations about using lead paint on glasswares and plates, there should have been rules about using strong earth magnets ON toys.
            Banning the sale of magnets AS toys is stupid.

          • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @01:43PM (#43282953) Homepage Journal

            We've been through this argument before.

            "Why should 100,000 people be denied the fun of playing with their toys just because a dozen toddlers go to the hospital and one or two of them die as a result?"

            "It's not the manufacturer's fault, it's not the toy's fault, it's the parents' fault for not supervising their toddlers properly. Irresponsible parents absolve us of all responsibility."

            "I want to play with my toys and I'm willing to see a couple of toddlers die as a result as long as I can blame their death on their parents' responsibility."

            That argument doesn't play too well, even in the freedom-loving United States (much less nanny-state Europe and Australia). All you have to do is bring up one set of parents whose toddler died and that brings people back to reality.

            When manufacturers try that in product liability cases, the juries don't buy it and hit them with big damage awards. "I knew some toddlers were dying but I'm a libertarian and it serves them right for having irresponsible parents" is not a successful trial strategy. And when government agencies ban these products, the (elected) politicians back them up. And the voters back them up.

            You've lost that argument. If anyone is on the high school debating team and wants to continue it, I'll leave it to you.

        • Re:Good. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:21PM (#43281963)

          Toddlers were eating those tiny magnet balls... which is a problem since it'll effectively punch holes in your intestines and kill you. It's not like it was grown men doing it.

          What I heard was teenagers were using them as impromptu toungue studs.

      • Re:Good. (Score:5, Funny)

        by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:00PM (#43281691)
        Maybe magnets shouldn't be so delicious then
      • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:09PM (#43281813) Homepage Journal
        Oh you can still buy them, just not in buckyball form anymore. Head over to the United Nuclear [unitednuclear.com] website and look for the 10 pound rare earth magnets labelled "Extremely Dangerous Magnet"! Remember, it's not fun if it's not labelled "extremely dangerous!"
    • Re:Good. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:12PM (#43281851)

      Justice or Revenge.

      It seems to me 30 Months (2 1/2 years) of prison for someone being a knuckle head is over the top. Yes what he did was dangerous, and he should be punished. But I could see 2 Weeks prison as justice.

        This guy was 19 years old. That 2 1/2 years cost him a good opportunity to get a college education, once he gets out his life is in screwed.

      2 Weeks of prison he probably wouldn't do it again.

      • Re:Good. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ace37 ( 2302468 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:35PM (#43282181) Homepage

        Completely agree. It's an issue, so if they want to make a point, put the guy in jail for a week or two. More than a day but less than a month.

        A 30 month sentence is not appropriate for being a douchebag. This is essentially just making an example of the guy and is unjust--the punishment doesn't fit the crime at all. Because of that, I hope this knucklehead appeals and gets off scot free.

        • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SecurityGuy ( 217807 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:45PM (#43282297)

          Well, yeah, because you can't catch everyone. If the punishment is a week in jail and you're very unlikely to get caught, plenty of people are going to do this. If you have a small chance of spending years in jail, non-idiots will think twice and not do it. I hope he spends every day of it in jail and a bunch of similar morons decide to find their fun in other ways.

        • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @01:25PM (#43282749)

          We punish a crime based on the foreseeable consequences of the crime, not on the simplicity of the act. This guy really could have crashed an airliner, killing hundreds. Pointing a laser at a plane is easy, but so is pulling a trigger.

        • Are you one of those people who will exclaim "What? The death penalty for breaking and entering? How unjust!" after reading this? [foxnews.com]

          You do know that he wasn't charged with being a douchebag? Hell, douchebaggery isn't even a crime. So I have to wonder, are you uninformed or do you think people should be able to engage in activities that can result in significant harm without any consequence unless something bad happens? Should I be able to go down to the local quik-e-mart with my arsenal and start shooting at p

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kilo Kilo ( 2837521 )
        2 weeks in prison for someone who could have caused a plane crash? Really?

        We should probably lighten up those drunk driving laws too. It's not like those people ever repeat their crimes [nbcnews.com]... oh, wait.
      • They don't mention the wattage, and if it was one of the relatively harmless presentation pointer/cat toy lasers I'd agree with you. But it's unlikely anyone would have actually noticed such a weak laser as anything other than sunlight glinting off something. And two weeks is laughably light sentence for attempting to do potentially permanent eye damage to an aircraft pilot and risking the lives of everyone on board.

      • The goal isn't just that this kid doesn't do it again. It's also to try to convince other knuckleheads that doing this is a really bad idea.

        And as some have pointed out, the reason that this guy didn't cause a couple hundred deaths and several million dollars worth of property damage was because he was lucky. If he had in fact caused the plane to crash, he would probably be locked up for the rest of his life.

    • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:16PM (#43281907)
      I don't want them to be banned by law, but people... DON'T USE GREEN LASER POINTERS FOR PRESENTATIONS.

      I've had to sit through a number of powerpoint presentations in darkened rooms where a green laser pointer was too bright. If red is too dim, it's the batteries.

      Occasionally I've been in presentations where someone was using a dry erase whiteboard as a screen. Never do that with a laser pointer. If they had tried to do it with a green laser, I would have walked out. That shit is reflective.

      Last gripe: people, you really shouldn't need to use a laser pointer on every single slide. Scientists are horrible at this. "If I am not making little circles around random places on the screen at all times, they'll think I'm not a real scientist!" Text should speak for itself, if you're pointing at text, you probably have too much to be of any use, or are nervously pointing unnecessarily. If you have images and you want to direct someone's attention at a small part, you could put arrows on it pretty easily, but that's the one time you need a laser pointer, that's typically only one or two times a slideshow from my experience.

    • by jopsen ( 885607 )

      How about we punish the idiots, and let the rest of us have our toys?

      Agree, but prison... That's a bit expensive... I mean 2 years of community service, ought to do the trick... And be a hell lot cheaper...

    • What he did was about as dangerous as drunk driving. So unless we're ready to start sentencing people to 30 months for first offense drunk driving, it's not an appropriate sentence.
  • Sounds reasonable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:29AM (#43281279)

    I am perfectly okay with this.

  • by supertrooper ( 2073218 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:39AM (#43281445)
    The only issue I have is that this kid, probably non-violent dumb-ass, will come out of prison where he will experience many bad things, and probably learn many many bad things. When he comes out he probably won't be as non-violent any more.
  • by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:43AM (#43281489) Homepage Journal

    Sentencing should be for punishment/rehabilitation and not to "send messages."

    That kind of shit needs to go away. That's why we have "hackers" getting put away longer than rapists, or issues like Aaron Schwartz.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Omnifarious ( 11933 )

      There are a lot of reasons for punishment. Deterrence is a valid reason. The possible harmful consequences of this action are extreme. This kind of reckless behavior could easily result in multiple deaths. I think a little bit of extreme deterrence is warranted.

      Aaron Schwartz's behavior might've hurt someone's profits someday, and really didn't hurt anybody. It took up the time of a few admins who decided to try to stop him and that's about it. There is no societal need for a high level of deterrence there.

    • by bussdriver ( 620565 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:56AM (#43281657)

      By "sending a message" they are by their own admission, using an unusual punishment.

      Sure, this is an interpretive call on the meaning of "unusual" and judges are extremely unlikely to limit their own power by using a broad definition, just as they are unlikely to limit their power by using a narrow definition.

      Apparently, California's prison lobby has not been deterred by the budget problems and overcrowding. We have the technology, house arrest for 30 months would be more reasonable.

      • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:32PM (#43282143)

        "By "sending a message" they are by their own admission, using an unusual punishment."

        Why do you assume that? The message they're sending could just as well be that this is a fairly new crime, and hence the decision is that this is actually the standard punishment for this sort of crime going forward. There needn't be an assumption that the punishment is unusual, on the contrary, this could be normal punishment for this sort of crime going forward.

        You can only reasonably jump to the conclusion you have if there have been a decent number of equivalent cases whereby they gave lesser sentences and if hence this particular case stands out. There haven't been enough cases yet for that to be true.

    • I don't think it should be worded as a deterrent. High powered lasers are capable of causing permanent blindness in the victim faster than they can blink. 30 months for multiple counts of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm? Sounds like he got off light, particularly since he was targeting people operating vehicles who would likely be killed if they were incapacitated in this manner. High powered lasers are not toys, they are tools and can be quite dangerous. Being ignorant of the harm you cou
  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:47AM (#43281553) Homepage

    Ok this guy did something monumentally stupid which, most certainly should serve as example for others. Done. Now whats with the 30 months in prison? Why must this guy be a felon? Now unable to leave the country, unable to vote in most places, unable to own a firearm.... all for something stupid that, he is unlikely to ever do again.

    The punishment fetish in this country really needs to be checked, punishments are totally out of whack with crimes when we have people losing their rights indefinitely over something which, while it could have been disasterous wasn't, and more would have been served (and just as useful an example set) by using it as a teaching moment than by ruining this guys life and making crime one of his best options going forward.

    But hey, the harsh punishment crowd can go stroke themselves over it, so someone benefits.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It simple. You do the crime, you do the time.

      In Germany this crime would be "dangerous interference with railroad, ship and airplane traffic" punishable with prison for six months to ten years, minor cases 3 months to 5 years. I'd guess it is similar in the US.

      It is however the first time I hear somebody prosecuted for shining lasers at airplanes.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:14PM (#43281873)

      Agreed - for doing something dumb (not intending to harm anybody) he gets more than someone who committs assault on a peace officer and fleeing arrest... so they people trying to commit crimes get a (relative) slap on the wrist, and the people causing possible harm (no actual harm) due to lack of judgement gets three years.

      Sounds like a great system!

      • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @01:30PM (#43282797)

        "For doing something dumb (not intending to harm anybody)"

        What, precisely, do you think he had in mind when aiming a laser pointer in the cockpit of an airplane lining up for a landing? "Harmless", my a$$.

        This was a serious violent crime. Period. End of story. The fact that his crime failed to have the intended result doesn't mean he gets a slap on the wrist.

    • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:27PM (#43282055) Homepage

      all for something stupid that, he is unlikely to ever do again.

      Doing it twice isn't a pattern, and it's not like blinding a pilot is putting anyone's life at risk. It's far more important to preserve our freedom!

      You're absolutely right. Punishment is blown way out of proportion in this country. Look at explosives, for instance. Yeah, there's some risk to explosive chemicals, but just because some guy throws a lit stick of dynamite at a crowded building, then another at the responding police car, is no reason to lock him up for 30 months, especially if the sticks didn't actually explode. While it could have been disasterous, it wasn't, and someone could have walked over the shocked and fainted bystanders, past the dynamite, and just asked the guy not to do it again. Surely he'd learn the error of his ways.

      Lasers, like explosives, firearms, revolving credit, and cars, are just dangerous toys. When someone does something reckless and still doesn't kill people, they should be applauded for their courage. Everyone of lesser courage and luck will recognize their clear inferiority, and would never try to duplicate the risky stunt. Deterrent punishment is only useful in a society where people copy each other mindlessly, and clearly everyone in the United States is too smart for that.

    • Why must this guy be a felon? Now unable to leave the country, unable to vote in most places, unable to own a firearm.... all for something stupid that, he is unlikely to ever do again.

      Because it is a felony to do what he did and he is an adult. If you don't think it should be a felony, then I suggest you lobby to get the laws changed. In the mean time, the sentence is the sentence and if that means 30 months of hard time, then it's 30 months in jail. I'll bet that it *won't* be anything close to 30 months when it's all said and done he's going to be a few nights in the big house and a whole lot of probation/community service.

      I don't get this, "wow that sentence seems too long!" argume

  • Why? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:56AM (#43281647) Homepage

    Why not public stockades for 10 days and allow the public to throw old food at him, totrure him, humiliate him, and even give him some corporal punishment?

    Why the hell dont we do this anymore to people so they actually learn?

    • Frankly, I agree with you, but there's that pesky old Eighth Amendment:

      "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

      Frankly, I don't think that a few days in the stocks (as opposed to 10 years in prison) would be cruel. In this day, however, it would be very "unusual".

      And yeah, I know that they weren't using "unusual" in that sense. The problem in this country is that the 8th Amendment has been the most pesky of the amendments to work wit

  • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:48PM (#43282343)
    This guy pleaded guilty [wtkr.com] for repeatedly lighting up Navy jets. 18 months and $4k fine.
    He was pissed at all the noise. The base was there before he was born.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell