News and Press Releases

HAMMOND MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO INTERFERING WITH THE SAFETY OF U.S. ARMY NATIONAL GUARD AIRCRAFT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 4, 2010

CHARLES CLAUSEN, age 58, a resident of Hammond, Louisiana, pled guilty today in federal court before U. S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan to a one-count bill of information charging him with impeding and interfering with certain officers of the United States, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten.

According to the previously filed court documents, CLAUSEN’s arrest on October 28, 2009, stemmed from an investigation conducted by the FBI and the Federal Air Marshal Service after receiving information from the U.S. Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 244 Assault Helicopter Battalion, based at the Hammond Northshore Regional Airport, Hammond, Louisiana. Specifically, on October 6, 2009, at approximately 8:00 P.M., the U. S. Army National Guard flight crew of a UH-60 Military Blackhawk helicopter were returning to base at the Hammond Northshore Regional Airport after conducting a training operation. The operation included five (5) additional UH-60 Blackhawks and one (1) C-12 aircraft, all of which were in-flight in close proximity. While approaching the airport, pilots and crew were temporarily blinded several times by a strong light emanating from the ground and aimed at the nose of the aircraft. (Crew members were flying on night vision goggles which automatically shut down when exposed to too much light.) Further investigation revealed that, on October 6, 2009, CLAUSEN aimed a Brinkmann Q-Beam, three million candle power flood light at the miliary aircraft in an effort to deter it from flying near his home. CLAUSEN’s actions deterred pilots and flight crew from conducting normal operational procedures, thus endangering the safety of those on board, other aircraft, and citizens.

Speaking to these developments, U. S. Attorney Jim Letten stated:

“Today’s conviction of an individual who interfered with military helicopter flight operations by attempting to blind the crews is evidence of our commitment to bring federal laws to bear to protect those men and women of the military who in turn make sacrifices to protect us. We will not tolerate abuses of the military, nor will we tolerate interference with the safety and efficiency of transportation in this country.”

CLAUSEN is scheduled to be sentenced on June 8, 2010 and faces a maximum term of imprisonment of one (1) year, a fine of $100,000, and one (1) year of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.

The investigation was conducted by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Air Marshal Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory M. Kennedy.

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