Stanislaus County Man Pleads Guilty in Helicopter Laser Strikes
FRESNO, Calif. — Roger Shane John, 32, of Turlock, pleaded guilty today to aiming the beam of a laser pointer at a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department helicopter, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, on the evening of October 22, 2017, John struck a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s helicopter, Air 101, five to six times with a powerful green laser, causing visual interference of both the pilot and tactical flight officer and disrupting an air support response to a domestic violence call. The laser strikes occurred within the FAA‑designated laser-free zone of the Modesto Airport. In pleading guilty, John admitted he knew that shining a laser at an aircraft is illegal. An examination of John’s laser revealed that it emitted 85 milliwatts (mW) of power and is 17 times more powerful than what is legally permissible for handheld laser devices. The FDA, which regulates handheld laser devices, has found that such power emission is dangerous and can cause either temporary visual effects or an eye injury.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, and Modesto Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.
John is scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd on June 11, 2018, in federal court in Fresno. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 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.