United States v. Rodriguez, No. 14-10122 (Silverman with Gould and Hurwitz) --- Following up on the decision in United States v. Gardenhire, 784 F.3d 1277 (9th Cir. 2015), the court held that the trial evidence in this case was insufficient to sustain a conviction for attempting to interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 32(a)(5) and (a)(8). Because the convictions on these counts (which carried a much higher sentence) affected the district court's decision to impose the maximum sentence for the defendant's conviction for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, 18 U.S.C. § 39A, the court also vacated the sentence on that count and remanded for resentencing.
The defendant was a "knucklehead" who shone a laser into the sky at a passing helicopter just to see how far the laser would point. There was no evidence that he willfully attempted to interfere with the operator of an aircraft, with the specific intent of endangering others or with reckless disregard for human life. Blinded by the light is not willful interference.
The decision, which makes for easy reading because of its colloquial style, is here: