Guilty Plea Lodged in Texas Laser Pointing Case
The defendant admitted that on June 23, 2018, he pointed a green laser light at an Airbus AS350 B2 helicopter while it was in the air. Texas Department of Public Safety agents were flying a the helicopter on a routine law enforcement patrol at the time.
U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas recently announced that Bryan Aldana, 20, of Houston has entered a guilty plea to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. Aldana admitted that on June 23, 2018, he pointed a green laser light at an Airbus AS350 B2 helicopter while it was in the air. Texas Department of Public Safety agents were flying a the helicopter on a routine law enforcement patrol at the time.
At about 9 p.m., they were headed in the northwest direction along highway US 290 when the agents saw a flash of green light coming from the left side of the aircraft. At the time, they were at approximately 1,000 feet elevation and traveling at a speed of 70-80 knots.
The pilot reversed the aircraft back toward the southeast and was illuminated again by the green laser, which was powerful enough to light up the entire cockpit, according to the DOJ news release, which said the light caused a glare in the pilot's eyes and obstructed his vision, forcing him to turn his head and maneuver the Airbus away from it. The pilot also had to close and shield his eyes from the flashing green laser inside the cockpit.
With the help of the Houston Police Department and a store's security cameras, Aldana was soon identified. Video recordings showed him aiming a green laser up in the sky several times and a green laser pointer at the helicopter while sitting in a chair next to a silver sedan. He was also seen placing the green laser device through the opening of the silver sedan window onto the back seat.
The release said officers seized the laser and submitted it to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist to be examined. The scientist concluded the laser pointer is a Class IIIB laser system and produced a laser beam which could result in serious and possibly permanent retinal damage.
U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes accepted the plea and set Aldana's sentencing for July 22. He faces up to five years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. He was permitted to remain on bond pending the sentencing hearing.