Baltimore, Maryland – James Robert Hensler, age 24, of Dundalk, pleaded guilty late yesterday to aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department.
“The FBI has aggressively investigated numerous people who have pointed lasers at aircraft since Congress passed the law in 2012,” said Stephen Vogt, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Baltimore Division. “People may think of this as a harmless prank, but pointing a laser at a pilot creates an undeniable danger for everyone on board that aircraft. We ask the public to contact us with any information they may have about similar incidents.”
Chief James Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department stated, “I am glad that this case has come to a positive conclusion and Mr. Hensler is being held accountable. Pointing a laser pointer at any aircraft is a serious matter, as it threatens the lives of those on the aircraft as well as people on the ground. In this incident, the crew of the Baltimore County Police helicopter was lucky that the use of the laser pointer did not lead to a tragic loss of life.”
According to Hensler’s plea agreement and other court documents, on September 30, 2014, a Baltimore County Police helicopter was flying over the area of Patapsco High School when the cockpit was illuminated twice by a green laser beam. Two flight officers in the helicopter put a spotlight on the person whom they saw illuminate the cockpit and called for ground units to respond. Arriving ground units saw Hensler in the area and questioned him. Hensler denied having anything to do with the laser. The flight officers directed the ground officers to a location where they had seen Hensler put his hand prior to the ground officers’ arrival. The responding officers located and seized the laser pointer. After being shown the laser pointer, Hensler admitted that he had used the laser pointer to hit the helicopter because he wanted to see how far the laser could shine.
Hensler faces a maximum of five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander has scheduled sentencing for March 25, 2015.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI and Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Harvey E. Eisenberg, who is prosecuting the case.