On March 29, 2012, Gardenhire aimed a commercial-grade laser at a privately-owned Cessna preparing to land at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. The pilot’s vision was impaired by the laser for several hours, according to prosecutors.
Gardenhire later aimed the laser several times at a Pasadena police helicopter responding to complaints by the pilot, according to his plea agreement.
The FBI, Federal Aviation Administration and police officials from Los Angeles, Burbank and Bob Hope Airport also investigated the incident.
Gardenhire was in his backyard, about a half-mile south of the airport, when he pointed the laser, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
The federal law that bans pointing lasers at aircraft carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Gardenhire was sentenced in Los Angeles by U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson.
Federal sentencing guidelines recommended Gardenhire receive 18 to 24 months, but Wilson opted for a harsher sentence, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Melissa Mills.
At sentencing, “Gardenhire basically argued that it wasn’t dangerous, that he couldn’t have known it was dangerous — that basically he was just bored and entertaining himself,” Mills said. “The judge found the facts didn’t bear that out and his behavior was reckless and very dangerous."
-- Joe Piasecki, Times Community News
Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @joepiasecki