Federal charges are coming down for a man in Denver, who has been accused of pointing a laser pointer at a helicopter flown by the Denver Police Department. He is alleged to have done this three times on two days last April.
Federal court documents stated that Nathan Finneman, 26, was indicted last week by a federal grand jury, and he turned himself in last Thursday. The helicopter in questi is called Air One, and it used equipment on board to determine where the laser being originated.
According to Denver Police Chief Robert White, pointing a laser pointer at a helicopter is a serious matter, and is a crime. He noted that he is thankful that the chopper has the technology to find the person who committed the crime.
Finneman faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $750,000 if he is convicted on all charges. After his court appearance, he spoke to a local reporter. He said that he and some friends got together and had some drinks, and they had a cheap laser pointer and were pointing it at buildings and other things.
He said that they saw the helicopter and they wondered if the laser beam could reach it. He said that no one intended ot hurt anybody and they were just messing around. He discovered later that what he was doing could blind a pilot and cause a crash. He found this out when the FBI knocked on his door a month later.
The FBI told him what could have happened and he was stunned. Finneman is a college student and he has asked for a public defender.
According to an FBI investigator, this case shows how committed the FBI is to ensure the safety of pilots of airplanes and helicopters. With the help of local police and state police, the FBI will continue to track down people involved in these types of incidents and prosecute them to the fullest extent of federal law.
The FBI noted that this is the first case of this type in Colorado, but he added that laser strikes on aircraft is a serious and growing problem. It is usually hard to catch those who did it.
FBI data reports that since they started to track these laser strikes, there have been a 1000 percent increase in the last few years. In 2013, there were about 4000 laser strikes against aircraft that were reported. That averages to about 11 events each day.
Of course, thousands of such attacks are not reported each year.
Finneman was released on a $5000 bond after his court appearance and he will come back to court on July 22. His initial appearance in court was the arraignment, which is where the formal federal charges are presented against the defendant in court. In some states, it is called a preliminary hearing. At this court appearance, you only need to plead guilty or not guilty.