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North Hollywood teen who aimed laser at aircraft gets prison term

March 25, 2013|By Dan Weikel

A North Hollywood teenager was sentenced Monday to 30 months in federal prison for aiming a blinding laser beam at a private jet and a police helicopter last year.

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson imposed the penalty on Adam Gardenhire, 19, who pleaded guilty in October to one felony count of aiming a laser beam at an aircraft. The case is the second prosecution of its kind in the country since the laser law was signed by President Obama in 2012.

According to court records, Gardenhire deliberately aimed a commercial-grade green laser beam at a privately owned Cessna Citation and a Pasadena Police Department helicopter on the evening of March 29, 2012.

The first attack was on the Citation, which was preparing to land at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. Prosecutors said the beam hit the pilot in the eye several times and impaired his vision for several hours.

Gardenhire later shined his laser at the police helicopter while it was responding to the incident involving the Citation. The pilot, however, was wearing protective goggles and was not impaired by the beam.

Reports of laser attacks have increased in recent years as strong laser devices have become more affordable and available to the public. They are capable of blinding and distracting pilots, both of which are dangerous, particularly during landings and takeoffs.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, California leads the nation in laser attacks on aircraft, with more than 500 reported last year. About 3,500 incidents were recorded nationally in 2012.

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dan.weikel@latimes.com

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