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posted by janrinok on Tuesday March 11 2014, @12:09PM   Printer-friendly
from the it-was-only-a-matter-of-time dept.

Papas Fritas writes:

"Scott Smith reports at AP that 26-year-old Sergio Patrick Rodriguez has been convicted of pointing a green laser at a Fresno Police Department helicopter and sentenced to spend 14 years in federal prison. 'This is not a game. It is dangerous, and it is a felony,' says US Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. 'Those who aim lasers at aircraft should know that we will seek to convict them, and we will seek to send them to prison. The safety of aircraft and the people in them demands no less.' According to evidence presented at trial, Rodriguez and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, used a high-powered green laser pointer 13 times more powerful than common pointers to repeatedly strike the cockpit of Air 1 during a clear summer night in 2012. In imposing the sentence, Judge O'Neill considered not only the severity of the offenses but Rodriguez's criminal history, numerous probation violations, and Bulldog gang affiliation. An expert said that the laser pointer that Rodriguez used was an instrument capable of inflicting serious bodily injury and death due to a high potential for crash caused by visual interference. A jury found Rodriguez guilty of attempting to interfere with safe operation of aircraft and aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. 'Lasing aircraft is not a joke or a casual prank,' says Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the FBI's Sacramento field office. 'Rodriguez's sentence clearly demonstrates the seriousness of his actions and that the FBI will work with its law enforcement partners to locate and arrest those who engage in dangerous, improper use of hand-held lasers that puts us all at risk.'

On February 11, 2014, in 12 cities, the FBI, in collaboration with the Air Line Pilots Association International and the FAA, announced the Laser Threat Awareness campaign, a nationwide effort to alert the public to the threat that aircraft laser illumination poses and the penalties for such activity. The FBI will offer up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of any individual who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft. The program is being rolled out in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Houston and San Antonio, Texas; Los Angeles and Sacramento, California; Philadelphia; Phoenix, Arizona; Cleveland, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; New York; and San Juan, Puerto Rico."

 
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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by hatta on Tuesday March 11 2014, @03:36PM

    by hatta (879) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @03:36PM (#14707)

    What does an extensive past criminal history have to do with anything? I assume he served his time and is a free man. Punishing him for crimes he's already been punished for amounts to double jeopardy, which is prohibited by the Constitution.

    14 years is clearly cruel and unusual punishment, which is also prohibited by the Constitution. We're not talking about a murderer or a rapist here. We're not even talking about manslaughter, which might get you 5 years. This is clearly disproportionate, and anyone who defends it should be ashamed of themselves.

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by metamonkey on Tuesday March 11 2014, @07:10PM

    by metamonkey (3174) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @07:10PM (#14774)

    I think much of it had to do with being a repeat offender. If you go to prison, get out and keep committing crimes, wash rinse repeat, eventually you got locked up not just as punishment but because that's the only way to keep you from committing more crimes.

    For this guy, the reason the police helicopter showed up was because he was lasing a medical emergency helicopter for a children's hospital. Then he lased the cops, too. And it wasn't like a foolish use of a laser pointer pin. He had one of those big mama jamas. According to the story, 13 times more powerful than a laser pointer. He was trying to crash the damn helicopters, thereby killing people. This is attempted murder.

    Let's say it wasn't helicopters and lasers. What exactly would you think is an appropriate punishment for somebody who first tries to run an ambulance for sick children off the road, and then tries to wreck the cop car that responds?

    --
    Okay 3, 2, 1, let's jam.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by hatta on Tuesday March 11 2014, @07:18PM

      by hatta (879) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @07:18PM (#14781)

      This is attempted murder.

      Great. Then try him for attempted murder.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by frojack on Tuesday March 11 2014, @07:42PM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 11 2014, @07:42PM (#14805) Journal

        Why try him for attempted murder?

        There are specific laws on the books for what he DID, which don't require you to prove INTENT.
        With murder, (especially attempted murder) you have to prove intent. That's pretty hard because you have to prove what was going on inside his brain.

        Why do you have this objection to specific prohibited acts being outlawed, rather than raising everything to the level of murder.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 2) by hatta on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:03PM

          by hatta (879) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:03PM (#14860)

          Why try him for attempted murder?

          Because you justified the sentence by saying it was attempted murder. Prove it.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:20PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:20PM (#14874)

            Why? Because it's the prosecutor who makes that call, not you. I personally would like to see crimals arrested with the maximum charge, but that's not always the case. Politics, budgets, and time constraints factor into it.

            Tldr: he's guilty, going to jail, and nothing of value was lost.

          • (Score: 1, Troll) by frojack on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:21PM

            by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:21PM (#14914) Journal

            Because you justified the sentence by saying it was attempted murder.

            I did no such thing.
            The prosecutor did no such thing.

            --
            No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 1) by Hombre on Wednesday March 12 2014, @02:36AM

          by Hombre (977) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @02:36AM (#14994)

          Hmmm attempted murder. Tough one. I'm a commercial helicopter pilot. I fly low and slow. The vast majority of helos do not have an autopilot and most have just the single pilot. 500 feet is not a lot of wiggle room when bad things happen. Intentionally trying to blind me when I'm 500 feet above ground is, AFAIC, attempted murder. Well, intentional manslaughter at least, because it sure as heck is not involuntary. You wouldn't point a gun in jest at someone. You wouldn't try to run someone off the road with your car. Doing stupid stuff that you know will seriously injury or kill people generally qualifies for "attempted." So what do we call it if it's not attempted murder?

        • (Score: 1) by Spook brat on Wednesday March 12 2014, @12:29PM

          by Spook brat (775) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @12:29PM (#15212) Journal

          frojack wrote:There are specific laws on the books for what he DID, which don't require you to prove INTENT.

          This is not the situation that strict liability laws were meant for. If the police want to give you a traffic ticket because your car was illegally parked, I have no problem with that. When the police want to send you to prison for 5 years with no requirement that you even had criminal intent, I have a serious problem with that - and so should you.

          If this is a strict liability law then we're one amendment away from giving a backyard astronomer 5 years for accidentally scanning his 30 mW laser across an aircraft, same as the sociopath using a 1500 mW laser to blind pilots for fun. I don't want to live in that country.

          --
          Travel the galaxy! Meet fascinating life forms... And kill them [schlockmercenary.com]
          • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday March 12 2014, @09:40PM

            by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 12 2014, @09:40PM (#15552) Journal

            So, shining the laser on TWO different helicopters was an accident.
            Just playing with the shark officer, and it went off. You're going with that?

            If you can sell that to a jury, you're golden.

            --
            No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
            • (Score: 1) by Spook brat on Thursday March 13 2014, @03:02AM

              by Spook brat (775) on Thursday March 13 2014, @03:02AM (#15659) Journal

              Frojack wrote:If you can sell that to a jury, you're golden.

               

              That's the problem, once you're in front of a jury on a charge with strict liability intent does not matter. Once the factual matter is decided, "I didn't mean any harm" doesn't matter - guilt is assigned, and the trial is moved on to sentencing.

               

              How is this law written? If it really is strict liability, then scanning a 5 mW laser past a plane by accident during stargazing makes you equally guilty with the sociopath who is deliberately blinding pilots with a 1500 mW laser. Same crime. No law with a 5 year penalty should be strict liability.

               

              Kudos, by the way, on the "just playing with the shark" line, that's witty =)

              --
              Travel the galaxy! Meet fascinating life forms... And kill them [schlockmercenary.com]
              • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday March 13 2014, @04:43AM

                by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 13 2014, @04:43AM (#15696) Journal

                The law seems to provide plenty of leeway for both a defense lawyer and the sentencing judge.
                http://www.laserpointersafety.com/rules-general/us laws/uslaws.html#US_proposed_2005_2007_Securing_ [laserpointersafety.com]

                Knowingly: excuses the careless astronomers (who are educated enough such that they really don't do this kind of shit anyway).

                The ability to issue a fine also does not tie a judges hands.

                --
                No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
                • (Score: 1) by Spook brat on Friday March 14 2014, @03:20AM

                  by Spook brat (775) on Friday March 14 2014, @03:20AM (#16165) Journal

                  Thanks for the link, that's some good reading!

                  Here's my favorite bit:

                   

                  . . . placing the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs in charge of enforcing sales restrictions that exceed federal standards is not likely to deter dangerous conduct, but instead will interfere with otherwise lawful commerce within New Jersey. The criminal laws already protecting New Jersey residents from the dangerous misuse of laser pointers would not be bolstered by an arbitrary one-milliwatt sales restriction that is inconsistent with federal standards.

                  Accordingly, I herewith return Senate Bill No. 418 (Second Reprint) without my approval.

                  Respectfully, /s/ Chris Christie
                  Governor

                   

                  *mind blown* Common sense? In East Coast politics? From Governor Chris Christie???

                  I don't know what to say. Some of my faith in humanity has been restored.

                  --
                  Travel the galaxy! Meet fascinating life forms... And kill them [schlockmercenary.com]
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by frojack on Tuesday March 11 2014, @07:20PM

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 11 2014, @07:20PM (#14785) Journal

    It probably means that there were other charges leveled against him in his indictment.
    Your bone headed press reporter glosses over these other charges in the name of journalism.

    The actual statute [justice.gov] he was charged under for his light show provides for a maximum of 5 years.
    And that is what his girlfriend will get.

    He was charged with two counts of lazering, so 10 years for those, (perhaps) and other things thrown in.

    Quoting from the above link....

    Laser Strike of Children’s Hospital and Fresno PD Helicopters
    Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, aka Javier Rodrigues, 26, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, both of Clovis, were charged with two counts of aiming a laser pointer at Air George, an emergency transport ambulance of Children’s Hospital Central California, and Air-1, a Fresno Police Department helicopter. They were also charged with conspiring to interfere with the safe operation of the helicopters and two counts of attempting to interfere with their safe operation.

    Plus additional charges were added after the above linked story went to press when it was found out he had violated his terms of probation, (and thus was not already a free man).

    But hey, nice attempt at silencing debate in your last sentence. You've had your say, and everyone else needs to shut up and hang their head in shame, even when your premise were totally wrong? I don't think so. You need to entertain the idea that you might actually be wrong on the facts once in a while.

    --
    No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Tuesday March 11 2014, @08:47PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Tuesday March 11 2014, @08:47PM (#14840) Homepage Journal

      I wish I hadn't used all my mod points, 3 is too low.

      --
      Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by hatta on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:10PM

      by hatta (879) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:10PM (#14866)

      Awesome post. 5 years is plenty justifiable, and falls into line with sentences for manslaughter. It would still be better if he were charged with attempted voluntary manslaughter, we don't need a separate law for this.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by zocalo on Tuesday March 11 2014, @07:22PM

    by zocalo (302) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @07:22PM (#14786)
    Depends on how it's handled. I agree that the jury should be kept completely in the dark about any previous convictions and only judge the facts of the crime at hand. In passing sentence though, the judge should certainly have full access to this and be able to take that into account and be able to pass stiffer sentences on persistant offenders. The article quite strongly implies that this was the case here; a different person with a cleaner record would probably have got a much more realistic sentence, but in this instance my take is that the judge considered Rodriguez a menace to society and probably gave the longest term he could.
    --
    UNIX? They're not even circumcised! Savages!
  • (Score: 3, Informative) by demonlapin on Tuesday March 11 2014, @07:22PM

    by demonlapin (925) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @07:22PM (#14788) Journal

    I assume he served his time and is a free man.

    Almost certainly not. Most people get out of jail or prison only to be put on probation for a good while longer. And, in this case, I think that what he did counts as attempted murder. I'm OK with 14-year sentences for that.

  • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Tuesday March 11 2014, @08:44PM

    by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Tuesday March 11 2014, @08:44PM (#14837) Homepage Journal

    What does an extensive past criminal history have to do with anything?

    Everything, and it should. Look, the guy rips off a liquor store and gets two years probation, you think after his probation is up and he commits another robbery you think he should get probation again? You spend a month in the county jail for putting someone in the hospital and think you should get probation for threatening more people with his sociopathic behavior? Really?

    He has been convicted over and over of harming and endangering people. And you think 14 years is cruel and unusual? No, the five years in the Federal pen my friend's brother got for loaning money to a dope dealer was cruel and unusual. 14 years for repeatedly putting people in danger is certainly not.

    You think if I shoot at you and miss I shouldn't be behind bars? That's exactly what he did, lasers can bring down aircraft (autos as well, the laser makes it impossible to see out the windshield) and if you're enough of a sociopath you're willing to risk people's lives for your own evil pleasure, you should be behind bars.

    Especially if you keep endangering people over and over, as this guy has been proven to do.

    --
    Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
    • (Score: 1) by hatta on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:07PM

      by hatta (879) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:07PM (#14861)

      Look, the guy rips off a liquor store and gets two years probation, you think after his probation is up and he commits another robbery you think he should get probation again?

      As long as there is a prohibition against double jeopardy in the Constitution, yes. If you want people to be punished repeatedly for the same crime, you have to amend the Constitution to allow it. Or have a justice system that does not follow the rule of law.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by mcgrew on Wednesday March 12 2014, @01:33AM

        by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Wednesday March 12 2014, @01:33AM (#14974) Homepage Journal

        You're not punishing him twice for the same crime, you're punishing him more harshly the second time because obviously in his case the punishment was completely ineffective. Look, take drunk drivers. Society wants to keep them off the highways because they're a menace to everyone. Get caught once, get a low fine and go drinking again? You're showing little logic here.

        --
        Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
        • (Score: 2) by hatta on Wednesday March 12 2014, @03:32PM

          by hatta (879) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @03:32PM (#15320)

          You're not punishing him twice for the same crime, you're punishing him more harshly the second time

          I don't see the difference at all. Getting 5 years for the first crime and getting 10 years for the second crime is exactly the same as getting 5 years for the first crime and getting 5 years for the second crime plus 5 years for the first crime again. If anything, the latter is the more honest way of portraying it, because that last 5 years wouldn't exist if not for the first crime.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13 2014, @06:14AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13 2014, @06:14AM (#15734)

          Then rewrite the specific law to provide a higher maximum penalty.

          The issue at stake is being sentenced to time above and beyond the maximum permitted. That is cruel and unusual. If we give someone a higher-than-maximum-allowable-by-law penalty because they've done it before, and the law makes no mention of an exception to the maximum, that's double jeopardy.

          If we put a maximum of less than life in jail for a particular crime, without regard to repeat offenses, that says that we consider that crime to be minor enough that a person should never give up the rest of their life for it (excepting elderly people, clearly). That, or amend the Constitution to remove the prohibition on double jeopardy.

          The issue is not what the person deserves--the issue is the arbitrary application of the legal system in areas which are supposed to be well-defined, without wiggle room. How I personally feel about this person makes absolutely no difference with respect to the law-as-stated and does not, under any circumstances, make it legal to ignore the law and apply arbitrary sentencing. That merely makes the enforcers of the law criminals themselves, even if unprosecuted.