Nathan Finneman is an adventurer who loves to fly -- and he doesn't shy away from the spotlight, having been featured in stories by at least two TV stations in recent years.
Now, however, he's getting the kind of attention he undoubtedly would have preferred to avoid. He's been charged by federal prosecutors with aiming a laser pointer at a Denver police helicopter -- an act that could net him up to fifteen years behind bars. Details, photos and videos below.
Finneman, 26, was featured in a 2012 9News profile that focused on his love of flying motorized paragliders. And during last year's flooding in the Boulder area, he captured footage of the devastation from such an aircraft and shared it with Fox31 in a cilp on view below.
Finneman's Facebook page, which identifies him as an "athlete at Go Fast Sports & Beverage," is peppered with pics of him airborne, including this one.... ...and this one.... ...as well as a video offering a look at the sky from his point of view:
Other pics show Finneman engaged in motorcycling and other extreme sports -- but his most recent posts, shared earlier this week, concern outreach on behalf of a homeless man he's befriended.
In short, Finneman seems like an extremely unlikely person to endanger anyone, let alone a fellow pilot -- but that's precisely what the U.S. Attorney's Office contends that he did.
On April 19 and 20 of last year, according to a July 2 federal grand jury indictment cited by prosecutors, Finneman "allegedly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft, namely a Bell helicopter operated by the Denver Police Department." A release adds that "the police helicopter, known as 'Air One,' was able to use equipment on board to identify the source of the laser pointer."
A trivial matter? Not in the opinion of U.S. Attorney John Walsh, who says in a statement that "pointing a laser at the pilot of a helicopter or airplane not only puts the pilot and passengers of the aircraft at risk, it exposes the public on the ground to the danger of an emergency landing or even a crash. What might seem like a harmless prank is far from it -- laser blinding of pilots is a serious and dangerous crime that we will prosecute."
If convicted on each of the three counts against him, Finneman could be imprisoned for up to fifteen years and pay as much as $750,000 in fines -- punishment that would represent a big fall for the high flier. At this writing, he has not responded to a Westword request for an interview. He's scheduled to be arraigned on July 22.
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Here's the aforementioned Fox31 report broadcast in conjunction with coverage of last year's flooding.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.