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Australian Man Sentenced to Three Years for Laser-Pointer Assault on Police Helicopter

An Australian man was sentenced Tuesday to nearly three years in jail for shining a laser pointer at a police helicopter and temporarily blinding the pilot.

Lanfranco Baldetti, 23, pleaded guilty to prejudicing the safe operation of an aircraft and to a number of weapons offenses for shining a green laser at a helicopter being used by police to track reckless drivers in the central city of Adelaide last June.

"What occurred here was a disaster in the making," Judge David Smith said in issuing the sentence of two years and 10 months.

The verdict comes in the wake of a series of laser attacks on airplanes in Sydney that prompted the federal government to restrict sales of laser pointers — typically used in classrooms and presentations. Some of the planes had to divert their landings due to the laser glare.

During the trial, the South Australian District Court heard that the pilot of the unmarked chopper saw the light flashing around the cockpit and was temporarily blinded by two flashes to his eyes.

"The flashes were approximately half a second apart and during the exposure he could see nothing but green," Smith said. "It took him a few seconds to regain normal vision in order to read his instruments."

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority said the sentence would send a message to those contemplating shining lasers at aircraft.