Bakersfield Man Pleads Guilty to Shining Laser at Law Enforcement Aircraft
FRESNO, CA—Timothy Earl Wilson, 46, of Bakersfield, pleaded guilty today to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court documents, on March 2, 2014, Wilson pointed a powerful green laser two times at Air-1, a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter while it was flying 500 feet above the ground. As a result of the laser strikes, the tactical flight officer experienced a feeling of pressure, throbbing, and irritation in his eyes that lasted 30 minutes and the flight crew was forced to divert attention away from its law enforcement responsibilities.
The federal statute that makes it a federal crime to knowingly aim the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft was signed into law in 2012 by President Obama in response to increasing threats posed by laser illuminations of aircraft. Last year, there were 3,894 reported laser strikes in the United States, or 10.67 incidents per day.
Wilson is scheduled for sentencing on March 30, 2015, before Senior United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii. Wilson faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, along with forfeiture of the seized lasers. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bakersfield Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.