U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents were flying their helicopters low over Wayne P. Groen's house near Lynden, Wash., on the night of Sept. 22 last year. Suddenly, wearing only his underwear and holding a hand-held spotlight, Groen rushed out of his house and shined the light on one of the Black Hawk choppers, "temporarily blinding" a pilot and in the process committing what, it's now been decided, was a federal crime.
Groen and his lawyers had long argued that he heard the sound of the helicopters and, terrified and confused, ran outside with the light to see what they were.
Prosecutors, however, painted him as a volatile man, angry with the frequent, house-rattling flyovers of his border-hugging property and using the flashlight as a way of lashing out against the agents.
They also claimed that the light was so bright the night-vision-goggle-clad pilot would have crashed were it not for his co-pilot.
In fact, prosecutors had charged Groen with another, more serious crime as well--interference with the authorized operation of an aircraft--but the jury found him not guilty of that charge, only convicting him of the one.
The felony he did cop carries a maximum of 20 years in prison, although federal prosecutors say they will ask for much less.
Still, the idea that an underwear-clad guy with a handheld light can "incapacitate" a $6 million aircraft and its pilot is laughable.
Equally laughable, however, is the notion that Groen ran outside with his flashlight, incredulous as to what the loud, rumbling thing in the sky was, and needed a spotlight to figure it out.
From the stories of neighbors who echo the sentiment that the helicopters are as frequent as they are annoying as hell, there's no doubt that Groen knew exactly what he was doing when he ran outside.
Not that having black helicopters flying over houses at asshole altitudes all the time isn't ridiculous enough to inspire a little laser tag, but let's call it what it is.