Chesnee Man Sentenced to Prison for Aiming Laser at Aircraft
COLUMBIA, SC—United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that Damien Wade Conley, age 33, of Chesnee, South Carolina was sentenced today in federal court in Spartanburg, South Carolina, for AIMING A LASER POINTER AT AN AIRCRAFT, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 39A. United States District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis of Spartanburg sentenced Conley to thirty-seven months in federal prison.
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that on November 20, 2013, Conley recklessly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at two news helicopters as they were flying to cover an accident on the interstate. The beam from the laser pointer struck each helicopter and invaded the cockpit.
The inherent danger in pointing a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft is that the pilot can be temporarily blinded by the laser light and can become disoriented while trying to continue operating the aircraft. Such an act can interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft and poses significant risk of accident and injury.
The case was investigated by agents of the FBI. Assistant United States Attorney Max Cauthen of the Greenville office prosecuted the case.