FRESNO -- A Central California man convicted of pointing a high-powered laser at a police helicopter was sentenced Monday to spend 14 years in federal prison.

Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, a 26-year-old Clovis resident, was accused of pointing a green laser 13 times more powerful than common pointers at a Fresno Police Department helicopter in 2012. The helicopter had been called to an apartment complex where an emergency helicopter for a children's hospital also reported being targeted by a laser.

"This is not a game," U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said in a statement. "It is dangerous, and it is a felony."

A jury found Rodriguez guilty of attempting to interfere with safe operation of aircraft and aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.

While handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill described Rodriguez as a "walking crime spree," carrying out an act with deadly potential. Rodriguez has a significant criminal history, prosecutors said, that includes several probation violations and gang affiliations.

Authorities say such laser strikes can blind pilots and lead to crashes. In 2013, there were 3,960 reports of people shining lasers at aircraft over the United States, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The same Fresno jury found Rodriguez and his 23-year-old girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, guilty of charges in the case in December. Coleman is scheduled to be sentenced in May.



Advertisement