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Colorado Man Pleads Guilty in Connection with Indictment Charging Him with Pointing Laser at Helicopters Operated by Law Enforcement and Television Station

FBI Los Angeles July 24, 2013
  • Public Affairs Specialist Laura Eimiller (310) 996-3343

LOS ANGELES—A Colorado man has pleaded guilty to one count of pointing the beam of a laser at an aircraft in Los Angeles, announced André Birotte Jr., the United States Attorney in Los Angeles, and Bill Lewis, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.

Isaias Gonzalez, 25, of Denver, pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of a federal indictment that charged him with pointing the beam of a laser at aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States. On January 8, 2013, a federal grand jury returned the indictment in United States District Court in Los Angeles, specifically charging Gonzalez with pointing a laser at helicopters separately operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and local media outlet, KTLA.

According to the statement of facts to which Gonzalez admitted in court, Gonzalez deliberately aimed a green laser at multiple aircraft on the evening of September 6, 2012.

The federal statute used to charge Gonzalez is part of legislation signed into law in 2012 by President Obama that makes it a federal crime to deliberately point a laser at an aircraft. The indictment marked the second time a violation of the new statute had been charged in the Central District of California. In the first case filed in the district under the new law, a North Hollywood man was sentenced to 30 months in prison (see press release). 

Gonzalez faces a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced. Sentencing in this case is currently scheduled for December 2, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.

This investigation was conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the FBI.

Gonzalez is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California.

Reports of laser attacks have increased dramatically in recent years as laser devices have become more affordable and widely available to the public. Technology has advanced the effectiveness of laser devices and has increased potential safety hazards for pilots operating aircraft, as well as their passengers and crew. Hazards to pilots include temporary distraction and impaired vision, which is particularly dangerous during the critical takeoff or landing phase of flight. In addition, pilots have reported the need to abort landings or relinquish control of the aircraft to another pilot as a result of laser attacks. California consistently leads the nation in reports of laser attacks. Over 3,500 laser attacks were reported in 2011.

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