The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a California man who had been sentenced to 14 years in prison for firing a laser at two helicopters did not deserve that sentence. After hearing oral arguments earlier this month, the court reversed the lower court’s decision in his conviction of one of the counts, and sent the case back for re-sentencing on the remaining one.
In this case, known as United States v. Rodriguez, the defendant was found guilty of 18 U.S.C. § 39A, a law specifically dealing with laser pointers, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. But the court overturned the conviction of 18 U.S.C. § 32, a law set up to punish those who attempt to destroy aircraft or aircraft facilities.
Attorneys believe that this was the highest such sentence ever issued for perpetrating a laser strike. By comparison, a man in New Zealand recently received 12 months of supervision and no prison time for nearly the same offense.
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