Man sentenced to prison for pointing laser at helicopter

Published: Nov. 5, 2014 at 10:47 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2014 at 10:47 AM EST
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Damien Wade Conley (Source: WYFF)
Damien Wade Conley (Source: WYFF)

GREENVILLE, SC (WYFF) - A 33-year-old man will serve time in federal prison for pointing a laser at two news helicopters, a judge has decided.

Damien Wade Conley was sentenced Tuesday to 37 months in prison for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, a federal offense.

U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said evidence presented at a change of plea hearing showed that Conley "recklessly aimed the beam of a laser pointer" at two news helicopters as they were flying to cover an accident on Interstate 85 near Woodruff Road on Nov. 20, 2013. The beam from the laser pointer hit both helicopters and filled the cockpits.

WYFF's Sky 4 pilot Phil Tate said the man, later identified as Conley, repeatedly pointed the laser at Sky 4 until it hit the windshield of the helicopter, causing a blinding bright green flare that filled the front view out of the chopper.

"When he hit us with that laser, the first thing I saw was the whole cockpit lit up green," Tate said.

Nettles said, "The inherent danger in pointing a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft is that the pilot can be temporarily blinded by the laser light and can become disoriented while trying to continue operating the aircraft. Such an act can interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft and poses significant risk of accident and injury."

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