Federal case over laser pointed at Coast Guard helicopter delayed again

Trial of Port Angeles man had already been set back once

PORT ANGELES — A 2016 federal case against a man whose girlfriend allegedly saw him pointing a laser beam outside his home when a green lightstream hit a Coast Guard helicopter is so complex it must be delayed — again — from this fall to April 6, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton on Friday granted the delay requested by Port Angeles resident Randall Muck.

A grand jury indicted Muck on May 16 for allegedly aiming a laser pointer at the helicopter Sept. 26, 2016, and with making false statements to government agents about the incident.

Class IIIa lasers, which include laser pointers, “can cause temporary visual effects such as flash blinding, which could distract or startle the person exposed,” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the devices.

The Eurocopter Dauphin-Dolphin chopper, based at Coast Guard Air Station-Sector Field Office Port Angeles, was hit by a green laser at about 8:15 p.m. Sept. 26, 2016, beamed from a bluff near Crown Park, according to a Port Angeles Police Department report.

A crew member said the laser illuminated the front section of the aircraft “for 1 or 2 seconds.”

Muck “admitted to shining the device from his home that correlates with our incident,” according to an Oct. 4, 2016, Coast Guard Investigative Services report.

In an FBI interview 19 months later in May 2018, Muck denied seeing the helicopter “when, in fact, he had,” according to the indictment.

A Coast Guard investigator said Muck’s girlfriend was at his home at the time of the incident “and witnessed the lasing and provided the time within an hour.”

Leighton’s ruling and Muck’s attorney’s motion were similar to their earlier filings in the first delay.

Leighton said not granting the continuance would deny Muck’s federal public defender attorney the reasonable time to prepare a defense.

Miriam Schwartz, representing Muck, cited “the complexity and technical nature of the subject matter in this case” and evidence and information that has passed between her and government lawyers, who did not object to the continuance.

“Defense is also consulting with several possible experts for trial,” Schwartz said.

The additional evidence and information is not contained in federal district court public records.

A trial was scheduled for July 15. In June, Leighton moved it to Oct. 7, and on Friday, to next spring.

Muck has waived his speedy trial rights through June 1, 2020.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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