Aviation News

January 11, 2011

Massachusetts Man Gets 3 Years for Pointing Laser at Police Helicopter

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By: BNO News
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A Medford, Massachusetts man was convicted on Monday of pointing a laser at a police aircraft, prosecutors said. It is the first such conviction in the state.

Gerard Sasso, 52, is the second person in the nation to be convicted for shining a powerful green laser beam into a State Police helicopter that was escorting a LNG tanker through the Boston Harbor.

The defendant was found guilty of willfully interfering with an aircraft operator with reckless disregard for human life and making false statements. Sasso was sentenced to 36 months, or 3 years, in prison.

The crime happened on December 8, 2007 when a State Police helicopter was escorting a liquid natural gas tanker through the Boston Harbor to the Distrigas Terminal in Everett. At about 9.15 p.m. local time, the aircraft pilots noticed a strange green light coming directly towards them.

The pilots recognized the light as a laser beam which was directed at the cockpit. Despite taking evasive maneuvers, the laser beam hit them and filled the entire cockpit with an intense sparkling green light.

The laser beam was considered a direct threat towards the aircraft, the LNG tanker and the planes landing at nearby Logan Airport. The Coast Guard assisted the helicopter which traced the beam in order to identify its source by flying an “S” shaped pattern.

After striking the helicopter four more times, the pilots found out that the beam was coming from a window in a third-floor apartment in Medford on the Medford/Somerville line. Officers went to the location and interviewed the resident, who was identified as Sasso.

The defendant falsely and repeatedly told the agents that he was not the person lasering the aircraft. However, officers noticed a laser pointer on his bedside table and Sasso then admitted his offense.

Sasso confessed that he had, in fact, lasered the helicopter and that he had hidden the green laser in his baseboard heating system. Police officers seized the laser beam and ten other lasers.

The laser used by Sasso is classified by the Food and Drug Administration as a Class IIIb laser and is at least five to ten times more powerful than an ordinary laser pointer and has a range of at least two miles (3.2 kilometers).