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Virginia Beach laser case shows how far prosecutors will go

Just how dangerous are laser pointers. We see them being used in corporate presentations all the time. Heck, we play with our cats with them. If someone points one at a high tech Navy fighter jet, does it count as a federal criminal offense and warrant the pointer's being sent to prison?

That's what has happened to a Vietnam veteran from Virginia Beach. He was recently sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay $4,000 for harassing Navy pilots with a laser pointer activated from his home near Naval Air Station Oceana.

That recent sentence followed the man's earlier entering a plea of guilty to one charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. The alleged laser tag activity apparently was a form of silent protest. According to his attorney, the man had seen the value of his home suffer and he believed that one of the reasons for it was the high level of jet noise from the air station. He had made calls to the base's noise complaint phone line without result, the lawyer said, and he was angry.

During his recent sentencing hearing prosecutors pressed for at least some prison time, saying that shining lasers at jets puts lives at risk. They said not only are pilots put in harm's way by such actions, to a point where a deadly crash could occur.

The defense, though, said the practice wasn't even as serious as a case of road rage, noting that in a lot of those land-locked instances the perpetrator is behind the wheel of a potentially lethal juggernaut of metal.

What this case shows is that regardless of how one might feel about the seriousness of their actions, or questions about whether they are even illegal, it is possible for an individual to find themselves facing serious charges. It's at such times that it's important to call an attorney.

Source: SFGate, "Va. Man sentenced for pointing laser at Navy Jets," The Associated Press, Oct. 19, 2012; The Virginian-Pilot, "Man pointed lasers at jets in frustration, lawyer says," Scott Daugherty, Oct. 19, 2012

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