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US: 12 months probation for Virginia woman aiming at police aircraft during protest

Amanda Robinson, 33
Richmond, Virginia, US


On June 4 2020, a green laser beam was aimed at a police aircraft that was monitoring civil unrest at the [Robert E.] Lee Monument, a 21-foot tall statue of the Confederate general sitting on a 40-foot pedestal. The air crew directed officers on the ground. They found and arrested 33-year-old Amanda Robinson.

In November 2020 she pleaded guilty. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the mother of 4, who had no previous criminal record, could have been jailed for up to 6 months. Both her lawyer and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia asked for no jail time, because Robinson did not know that shining a laser at aircraft was hazardous, and because she cooperated with prosecutors.

On March 23 2021 Robinson was sentenced to 12 months probation.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch

UK: 12 months for aiming at police helicopter (4 months suspended)

Trevor Cheeseman, 59
Burringham, North Lincolnshire, UK


Cheeseman was convicted after a "sustained laser attack" on a National Air Police Helicopter flying over Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire on April 11 2020.

The helicopter crew directed Humberside Police to a location where Cheeseman was arrested. He pleaded not guilty in December 2020. In early March 2021, Cheeseman was given a 12 month sentence, suspended four months. He was convicted of shining a laser beam towards a person providing air services, causing the laser beam to dazzle or distract that person.

From GrimsbyLive. Although the story says the sentence was 12 months with four months suspended, the headline states "Man avoids prison…" The apparent discrepancy may be due to factors of British law or judicial terms.

UK: 6 months for aiming laser at police helicopter; perpetrator called "idiot" and "liar" by judge

Benjamin Fort, 39
Keighley, West Yorkshire


On February 26 2021, Fort was sentenced to six months in jail, after he repeatedly aimed a laser at a police helicopter.

On August 17 2020, the aircraft was searching for a missing person in Keighley when it was illuminated by laser light multiple times. There was no apparent ill effect on the pilot other than closing his eyes as a reflex. The crew located the source and passed the information to ground officers.

When Fort was arrested, he first said he had been using the laser to look for rabbits, then said he aimed the laser at a "UFO". Fort said the laser pen was inexpensive so he did not think it would get near the helicopter.

At trial, the judge said both explanations were lies: "…the reality is there was no, and never could be, any justification for what you did."

During the trial, Fort's past issues with alcohol, severe depression, and paranoia were raised. For example, at the first sentencing hearing in January 2021, Fort arrived drunk. Three officers took him to a holding cell to sleep off his inebriation. Sentencing was re-scheduled for February 26.

On that date, the judge said he wanted Fort to spend years in prison because he was an "idiot" for aiming at the helicopter. He did not think such a long sentence would be sustained at appeal, so he handed down a sentence of six months.

From BBC News and the Telegraph & Argus

US: Three months probation for aiming laser at SkyWest flight

Brian John Loven, 42
Missoula, Montana, US

Brian John Loven laser squashed

On March 3 2020, a SkyWest flight on decent to the Great Falls, Montana airport was illuminated by a bright green laser that lit up the cockpit.

Sheriff's deputies located a Jeep in which Loven was a passenger. A laser pointer was in a cup holder.

Loven admitted aiming the laser at an aircraft. He said he wanted to "test out the distance of the laser". He also said he did not know it was illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft.

On October 28, 2020, he pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.

On February 25 2021, Loven was sentenced to three years probation. U.S. federal prosecutors had requested a sentence of 15 to 21 months in prison. Contrary to some news reports, the only punishment was probation.

More on the incident
here.

Wales: 30 weeks for Swansea man who aimed laser at police helicopter

William Andrew David James Fellowes, 29
Swansea, Wales


William Andrew David James Fellowes laser Wales squashed

A 29-year-old man was sentenced on January 6 2021 to 30 weeks in prison for aiming a £9 laser pen at a police helicopter searching for a missing teenager in Swansea, Wales.

On September 2 2020, a National Police Air Service helicopter with a crew of three was searching for a missing female teen at about 2:40 am when it was hit by five or six "bright green, sharp lights" lasting 5-10 second each. The pilot was momentarily blinded and was disoriented; another crew member was dazzled. The crew abandoned the search due to the pilot's loss of vision.

Ground officers went to a location pinpointed by the helicopter's thermal imaging camera. They smelled marijuana and found William Andrew David James Fellowes with a laser pen. He later told police he had been pointing at stars and the pilot got in his way. He said he did not know the sky light was a helicopter and thought it was a bird, a satellite or a hot air balloon.

Fellowes pleaded guilty to directing a laser beam towards a moving police helicopter in violation of the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act of 2018.

More information at this LaserPointerSafety.com article