A Baton Rouge man who flirted with disaster by repeatedly aiming a green laser at a police helicopter as it flew a patrol over the city last year has been charged by federal prosecutors and intends to plead guilty, court records show.
Robert C. Adamek, 27, was charged Monday in a bill of information with forcibly impeding and interfering with an officer. The misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Dippel filed a court notice Tuesday informing U.S. District Judge James Brady that Adamek intends to plead guilty as charged.
“Pointing a laser at any aircraft in flight is extremely dangerous because it can temporary blind a pilot, or at the very least, be disorienting to the pilot,” U.S. Attorney Walt Green said. “Putting lives in danger simply as a result of a prank is inexcusable.”
Baton Rouge police spokesman Lt. Jonny Dunnam echoed Green’s sentiments.
“We want to get the message out that it’s not harmless fun to point one of these high-powered lasers at an aircraft,” Dunnam said, adding that it puts the passengers and crew in danger as well as anyone on the ground.
Adamek’s attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Mark Upton, declined comment on Tuesday.
The plea agreement, filed Tuesday, indicates the incident occurred about 3 a.m. Feb. 16, 2014, while a Baton Rouge police helicopter was flying over and around various residential neighborhoods in the city.
The pilot, according to the agreement, was repeatedly struck by a green laser originating from an apartment complex on East Boyd Drive.
“Although the pilot was not blinded by a direct hit to his face, the laser strikes were disorienting and could have caused the helicopter to crash,” the plea documents stress.
The pilot used the helicopter’s forward-looking infrared camera to identify the precise location of the suspect shining the laser pointer and directed police officers on the ground to that area, the documents say.
As the officers converged on the apartment complex, one officer observed Adamek aiming an activated laser pointer at the helicopter, the agreement states.
Officers then entered Adamek’s apartment, came in contact with him and recovered the laser pointer.
Adamek later admitted to FBI agents that he had shined the laser pointer at the police helicopter, the documents add.
The bill of information charging Adamek notes that the police helicopter and the officers who pilot it routinely assist federal officers — agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI and Marshals Service, for example — in the performance of their official law enforcement duties.
The document says Adamek “forcibly impeded and interfered with” a person — the helicopter pilot — who was assisting just such a federal agency.
The bill information accuses Adamek of “repeatedly aiming” the laster pointer at the helicopter and “targeting” the helicopter with the device.
The plea agreement — signed by Adamek, Upton and federal prosecutors — calls for Adamek to pay $500 in restitution to the Baton Rouge police Aviation Unit.
Pilots reported roughly 17,700 laser illumination incidents to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration from 2004 through 2013.
U.S. civilian pilots have been required since 2005 to report any sighting of a laser beam.