A Turlock man is facing five years in prison after being convicted of pointing a laser at a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.
Roger Shane John, 32, entered a guilty plea Monday to aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an emergency helicopter, according to the Department of Justice.
John used his laser pointer on the night of Oct. 22, 2017. He struck the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s helicopter, Air 101, five to six times with a powerful green laser, causing visual interference of both the pilot and tactical flight officer and disrupting an air support response to a domestic violence call.
In pleading guilty, John admitted he knew that shining a laser at an aircraft is illegal.
An examination of John’s laser revealed that it emitted 85 milliwatts (mW) of power and is 17 times more powerful than what is legally permissible for handheld laser devices. The FDA, which regulates handheld laser devices, has found that such power emission is dangerous and can cause either temporary visual effects or an eye injury.
John is scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd on June 11, in federal court in Fresno. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, and Modesto Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.