GREAT FALLS — A Missoula man admitted in federal court in Great Falls on Wednesday that he aimed a laser beam at an airplane as it was approaching the Great Falls airport.
U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said in a news release that Brian John Loven, 42, pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.
Prosecutors said in court documents that at about 9:40 p.m. on March 3, two pilots operating a SkyWest flight reported that on their descent to Great Falls International Airport, the plane was hit with a bright green laser that lit up the cockpit.
The pilots reported that the incident happened on the east end of town in the area of Giant Springs State Park.
Cascade County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the area and found a Jeep driving slowly through the parking lot of Heritage Park, which was closed at the time. Loven was a passenger. The driver told deputies that she was learning how to drive a manual transmission car.
While talking with the driver, deputies noticed a small, black pen-like device sticking out of the center cup-holder and asked about the item. The driver retrieved the device, said it was a laser pointer, and activated it. The laser pointer projected a green light onto the dashboard.
Deputies interviewed Loven, who admitted to shining the laser at an airplane while it was approaching the airport. Loven explained that he was unaware it was a federal offense to shine a laser at a plane and just wanted to “test out the distance of the laser.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Starnes is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Transportation Security Administration, Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, and Airport Security.
Loven faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Morris presided and set sentencing for February 25.