Prison Sentence Upheld for Man Who Pointed Laser at KC Police Helicopter

By Jeffrey Yano, Esq. on February 13, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's a crime, and it deserves time. A federal appeals court has affirmed a judge's three year prison sentence for Jordan Clarence Rogers, who repeatedly pointed a laser at a Kansas City police helicopter. Doing so temporarily blinded the pilot. Now it's sent Rogers to federal prison.

Watch Where You Point Your Laser

Lasers in the eye are a serious problem for aviation. It's a fast way to cause serious, debilitating injuries to pilots, and puts an aircraft (and everyone inside or under it) in jeopardy. Laser-pointer attacks on pilots are a tactic known to be used by militaries to disable pilots.

And it's also a federal offense. Federal prosecutors charged Rogers with violating 18 U.S.C. section 39A, which criminalizes "knowingly aim[ing] the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft" in the United States.

Rogers at first denied that he knew the laser hit the aircraft. Then he denied knowing it was dangerous. Then he admitted he knew it was illegal. That doesn't work when it's the FBI you're talking to.

How Much Time for Recklessly Endangering an Aircraft?

The heart of the appeal was about a sentencing enhancement. After Rogers pleaded guilty to pointing the laser, the sentencing judge imposed a nine-level sentencing enhancement for recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft, for a sentence of 36 months.

Calling it a "close question," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the sentence, noting that Rogers knew the risk of his conduct and that the sentencing judge's decision was not clear error under the guidelines.

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