A Clovis man recently pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at a Fresno County Sheriff’s helicopter. Charles Conrad Mahaffey, 23, was indicted under a new federal statute signed into law last year by President Obama that makes it a federal crime to purposefully aim a laser pointer beam at an aircraft.
Court documents indicated that Mahaffey aimed a powerful red laser at Fresno County Sheriff’s Eagle 1 helicopter while it was assisting ground units. As a result, the helicopter was forced to abort its activities. Mahaffey was later identified as the suspect after the helicopter’s pilot and members of the Clovis Police Department conducted an investigation into the source of the laser beam.
According to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, “reports of laser incidents have increased dramatically in recent years as powerful laser devices have become more affordable and widely available to the public. According to the FBI, there have been over 2,646 incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft reported in the United States in 2013. Laser beams pose a serious safety hazard to flight operations.”
Mahaffey is schedule to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill on January 27, 2014. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.