Saturday, June 28, 2014

North Pole man pleads guilty to shooting fireworks at Army helicopters

FAIRBANKS—A North Pole man who shot fireworks at Army helicopters flying over his house and shined a spotlight at them pleaded guilty Friday to a misdemeanor count of assaulting U.S. military personnel performing official duties.

Federal Magistrate Judge Scott Oravec accepted Daniel Lee Slayden's guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Fairbanks.

Court documents say Slayden bought a home in a residential area near North Pole in March 2013 and became irritated at helicopters from nearby Fort Wainwright performing night flights around 1,000 feet above ground. There was no mention of interference from low-flying aircraft in the legally required disclosure statement when Slayden bought the house, and the sellers refused Slayden's request to rescind the purchase.

Slayden, according to a recorded conversation, complained to the Public Affairs Office on Fort Wainwright, after which some helicopters appeared to have shifted south. Some helicopters, however, were still flying over Slayden's house and at an altitude that Slayden estimated as below 500 feet.

Slayden goes on to say in the recorded statement that friends of his who worked on Fort Wainwright told him helicopter pilots knew who he was and that their flights irritated him and that they continued deliberately flying over his house. Slayden declined an offer to have the allegation followed-up by providing the names of his friends.

Slayden admits that, starting last fall, he began to shoot fireworks and shine a spotlight at helicopters flying over his house. He said the helicopters' bright lights shined into his windows and that he wanted to "give it back to them," according to statements.

Slayden said he shot mortar-based fireworks or aimed a spotlight at helicopters on roughly 12 occasions but did not necessarily aim the mortar tubes at the aircraft. He estimates the fireworks reached 100 feet into the air.

The court document states uniformed Army pilots confirmed fireworks exploded about 300 feet below their aircraft and that a spotlight interfered with their operations — including causing blackouts to night-vision goggles — during the reported time frame.

A search of the Slayden's home resulted in the seizure of several fireworks, four cardboard mortars for launching fireworks and a 12-volt spotlight.

Under a plea agreement, Slayden would be sentenced to three years probation, fined $12,500 and would forfeit for destruction any instruments used in the offense. The maximum penalty is a one-year prison sentence and $100,000 fine.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 2.


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