He Will Serve More Than Three Years In A Federal Prison
United States Attorney Lawrence G. Brown announced today
that Balltazar Valladares, 30, of Roseville, was sentenced
Wednesday by United States District Judge William B. Shubb to three
years and one month in prison, to be followed by three years of
supervised release for interfering with the safe operation of an
aircraft. Valladares pleaded guilty on June 8, 2009.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Roseville
Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the
Federal Air Marshals Service.
"These years in federal prison should give anyone pause when
contemplating as reckless an act as potentially blinding a pilot
who is operating an aircraft," stated U.S. Attorney Brown.
According to Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Segal, who
prosecuted the case, on March 16, 2009, a Southwest Airlines flight
landing at Sacramento International Airport was hit by a green
flashing laser light while flying over Roseville. Police dispatched
to the area were unable to locate the source of the laser.
Approximately two hours later, the Sacramento Sheriff’s
Department Air Unit STAR 5 flew over the area and was hit by a
high-powered green laser. While the laser remained on the
helicopter, STAR 5 flew in the direction of the light, coming
within a 1/4 mile of the source of the laser. STAR 5 identified
Class III Laser File Photo
Roseville Police officers arrived at the residence and spoke
with Valladares. He admitted that he had been shining the laser
into the sky during the night and that he had shined the laser at
the police helicopter. During a search of the residence, police
found the laser in two pieces hidden in different parts of the
The laser possessed by Valladares was seven times more powerful
than the standards published by the Food and Drug Administration.
High-powered lasers like the one used by the defendant have the
potential to blind those who may look at it. As it concerns
aircraft, the laser may interfere with pilots several kilometers
away and can cause problems during critical phases of an
aircraft’s operation, including takeoffs and landings.
Judge Shubb, in sentencing Valladares, noted his long criminal
history and his "apparently sincere indication to turn his life
around." However, more important to the court was "the message that
needs to be sent to others who might engage in this sort of
conduct." Judge Shubb said that a "message has to be sent out"
because shining a laser onto aircraft in flight is a "very serious
problem," with "very, very serious consequences."