Henrico Woman Pleads Guilty to Laser Pointer Incident During Protest

This Tuesday, June 2, 2020 file photo shows a large group of protesters gather around the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue near downtown in Richmond, Va. . (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

By Brian Carlton

November 28, 2020

Woman faces up to five years in prison as a result of June 4 incident.

RICHMOND-A Henrico woman could face up to five years in prison for aiming a laser pointer at a police aircraft. Amanda Robinson, 33, pleaded guilty in federal court this week. 

The charge stems from an incident during the June 4 protest at Richmond’s Robert E. Lee monument. Robinson was on hand, taking part in the protest when she aimed her laser pointer at a 2006 Cessna aircraft flying above the area. Members of the Metropolitan Aviation Unit flew that plane. 

“The Metropolitan Aviation Unit officers were conducting aerial surveillance patrols during a period of civil unrest,” says a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. “In aiming the laser pointer, Robinson struck the aircraft on at least two separate occasions and disrupted the pilot’s vision.” 

Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office also explained the Metropolitan Aviation Unit is made up of employees from the Henrico, Richmond and Chesterfield police departments. They monitor and patrol areas around Central Virginia. In this case, they used an onboard camera to identify Robinson as the person aiming the laser. The plane’s staff directed police on the ground to detain her. Those officers also found a green laser pointer in her possession, similar to the one used minutes before to blind the pilot. 

By June 4, protesters had been in the area for seven days. It was partly a day they celebrated, as Gov. Northam announced plans to take down the Robert E. Lee monument. That hasn’t happened yet, however, due to ongoing legal battles.  

Facing Federal Charges

Robinson won’t be sentenced until March 23. According to the law, she could face up to five years. Still, in their statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office made mention that “actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.”

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].

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