After pleading guilty in July to shining a green laser beam at a Customs and Border Protection Helicopter, a judge sentenced a Texas man to one-and-a-half years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez also ordered that Margarito Tristan III, 28, serve two years of supervised release upon completing his prison sentence. Tristan could have received up to five years in prison.
The FBI put out the following press release about the incident:
CALLEN, TX—Margarito Tristan, III, 28, of Donna, has been ordered to federal prison for aiming a laser at a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) helicopter, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Tristan pleaded guilty July 1, 2013.
Today, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez ordered him to prison for a term of 18 months, to be immediately followed by a two-year term of supervised release.
On March 7, 2013, CBP Air and Marine offices were conducting a night training operation in CBP helicopter, designated Omaha 26A. At approximately 10:20 p.m., while conducting a training flight near Weslaco, the pilots were illuminated by a green laser, at which time their eyes were irradiated by the laser, causing them disorientation.
After altering course, the aircrew was able to detect a vehicle that was the source of the laser by using their night vision goggles. The aircrew then directed law enforcement officers on the ground to the vehicle, and the officers subsequently conducted a traffic stop. A green laser was recovered from the vehicle, and Tristan admitted to using it to illuminate the helicopter.
During the sentencing hearing today, the court cited its concern, not only for the lives of the pilots, but also the lives of those on the ground should the helicopter have gone down in formulating the sentence for this first-time offender.
Tristan was initially permitted release upon posting bond. However, he has not yet been able to do so and he remains in custody where he has been since his arrest.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, Texas Department of Public Safety, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department, and the Donna Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Steven Schammel is prosecuting.