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Man gets 15 months in federal prison for aiming laser pointer at a CHP helicopter

October 25, 2010 |  5:29 pm

A Coachella Valley man who aimed a laser pointer at a CHP helicopter last year was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison Monday, authorities said.

Nathan Ramon Wells, 19, aimed the laser at the aircraft while it was assisting Cathedral City police investigating a residential burglary in June 2009.

Along with the prison time, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips in Riverside ordered Wells to be placed on supervised released for three years when he completes the sentence.

In September, Wells pleaded guilty to a felony count of interference with an operator of an aircraft. According to the U.S. attorney’s office, the California Highway Patrol pilot was flying at 700 feet when the helicopter’s cockpit was suddenly illuminated with a bright green light, causing both CHP officers aboard to look away and change course.

The officers aboard determined that the light was coming from a vehicle below, which they tracked as it drove through Cathedral City in Riverside County. When police stopped Wells’ vehicle, they found a laser device inside.

The case was investigated by the FBI, with help from Cathedral City police.

-- Phil Willon