Pointing laser at police helicopter lands Kansas City man in prison

Harry Lynch

A Kansas City man who said he thought it would be “fun” to point a laser at police helicopter was sentenced Tuesday to three years in federal prison.

Jordan Clarence Rogers, 26, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Kansas City where he pleaded guilty in September to violating the federal law that prohibits the pointing of a laser beam at an aircraft.

An attorney for Rogers argued that he should receive a lesser sentence because he was unaware of how dangerous pointing a laser at a helicopter could be.

“The average person would believe that a laser beam hitting an aircraft would cause a small spot to appear on the aircraft or in the cockpit, much like shining a laser beam at a wall,” Assistant Federal Public Defender Carie Allen wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “It is not common knowledge that the laser actually increases with size as it extends, and that the glass of the cockpit can expand the light further, causing it to light up the entire cockpit.”

Allen said that while Rogers understood that pointing a laser at an aircraft was illegal, “he had no knowledge of the highly scientific manner in which a laser endangers an airplane.”

In the 2013 incident, Rogers pointed the laser at the helicopter three times and the pilot later reported that he suffered “eye strain” for several hours, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors asked for a 4-year prison term, arguing that Rogers was “generally aware” that pointing a laser at moving vehicle was dangerous, and he “recklessly disregarded those dangers when he intentionally and repeatedly pointed a laser at a police helicopter.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Casey also noted that Rogers has an extensive prior criminal history.

“Put simply, this defendant’s criminal history is horrendous,” Casey wrote in a sentencing memorandum, and he went on to say this should be factored in when determining the sentence.

Tony Rizzo: 816-234-4435, @trizzkc