- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A California man who aimed a laser pointer at a law enforcement helicopter has been sentenced by a federal judge to nearly two years in prison.

Barry Lee Bowser, 52, received a 21-month sentence Tuesday. He had faced upwards of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine after a jury convicted him in July of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft.

Federal authorities charged Bowser last year after the pilot of a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was momentarily blinded with a beam of light while he was providing aerial support for officers who were searching for a man armed with a gun. Prosecutors said the chopper was about 500 feet off the ground when it was suddenly illuminated by the laser beam.

The pilot experienced flash blindness and eye discomfort that lasted for several hours and was forced to end his mission early.

During Bowser’s two-day trial earlier this year, prosecutors explained that they tracked the source of the light to property owned by Bowser around one-eighth of a mile away from where the pilot was momentarily blinded. When quizzed by authorities, Bowser admitted that he had “just placed new batteries in the laser and was testing its capabilities,” according to a FBI statement issued this year after a conviction was secured.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill said during Tuesday’s sentencing that he had elected to hand down a 21-month sentence because Bowser had obstructed justice by concealing the laser at first and providing false statements during the federal investigation, an ABC News affiliate reported.

Purposely aiming a laser beam at an aircraft or its flight path became a federal crime in 2012 when President Obama signed the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act. Last year, the FAA received 3,894 reports involving laser beams and aircraft, and the FBI said an average of 11 incidents occurred nationwide each day in 2013.

The FAA said Tuesday it was investigating reports of an incident that occurred earlier that morning in Grand Rapids, Michigan, involving a non-commercial plane and a laser pointer.

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