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FRESNO, Calif. — Andrew Zarate, 20, of Fresno, pleaded guilty today to aiming a laser pointer at a California Highway Patrol airplane, Air 43, announced U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and Monica Miller, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Sacramento field office.
According to court documents, Air 43 was struck up to 50 times by a powerful green laser pointer. As a result, the pilot suffered temporary blindness and Air 43 was forced to break away from a burglary in progress at a Fresno middle school.
Zarate is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill on November 3, 2014. Both men face a maximum prison term of five years and a fine of up to $250,000. 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.
In June, David Walter Fee, 22, of Fresno, pleaded guilty to the same offense and is scheduled to be sentenced on August 25, 2014.
This case was the product of an investigation by the FBI’s Fresno Office, California Highway Patrol, and Fresno Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Michael G. Tierney are prosecuting the case.