Prohibiting lasers as condition of release: Defense lawyers balk, arguing it could mean barring a ‘cat toy’ or CD

Defense lawyers on Thursday challenged attempts by prosecutors to bar defendants arrested during recent protests from carrying lasers while out of jail awaiting their trials.

“A CD player is a device that contains a laser,’’ Assistant Federal Public Defender Thomas Price said in federal court.

“Or a cat toy you play with your cat,” Price said. “I think some cars have lasers.”

Price was arguing on behalf of a man who wasn’t accused of pointing a laser at anybody but is facing a misdemeanor allegation of assault on an officer. Prosecutors had included a laser on the list of weapons that they wanted to prevent his client, Sabastian Dubar, from carrying while out of custody.

Price convinced U.S. Magistrate Judge Jolie A. Russo to drop the laser prohibition for Dubar.

The next defendant, Christopher Fellini, wasn’t as successful. He was accused of shining a laser at a federal officer on July 5.

His defense lawyer, John Robb, echoed Price’s argument, telling the court there’s a variety of lasers used in daily life.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Sussman called the defense posture absurd. “Nobody is suggesting we’re talking about cat toys or CDs,’’ Sussman said. “That’s ludicrous.”

Sussman said the government doesn’t want Fellini having a hand-held, high-powered laser that specifically comes with a warning not to shine directly into anyone’s eyes and can disorient or blind someone.

“Everyone knows those are the lasers” in question, Sussman said.

Federal officials have said three or four officers have suffered impaired eyesight due to high-powered green lasers pointed at them in recent weeks outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, which has been a flashpoint for nightly conflict since early July.

Fellini has pleaded not guilty to one count of assault on a federal officer.

He pointed “a laser, a device that generates an intense beam of coherent monochromatic light (or other electromagnetic radiation) by stimulated emission of photons from excited atoms or molecules, towards officers during the performance of their duties at the Hatfield Courthouse,” Federal Protective Service agent David Miller wrote in a federal affidavit.

Other federal officers spotted Fellini shining the laser at federal officers from about 40 yards away in Lownsdale Square across the street. As they entered the square to arrest him, he ran and dropped the laser, which officers confiscated, according to the affidavit.

The magistrate judge kept, as a condition of Fellini’s release, lasers as among the weapons Fellini can’t possess, in addition to guns, mortars and fireworks.

Items seized during Christopher Fellini's arrest, federal officers say

A laser on the far right was among the items tied to Christopher Fellini, who has pleaded not guilty to assault on a federal officer, according to court records.

As with most people facing federal allegations in the demonstrations, the judge has released them with the condition they stay out of a five-block radius around the downtown federal courthouse between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The boundaries are Southwest Washington Street to the north, Willamette River to the east, Southwest Market Street to the south and Park Avenue to the west.

— Maxine Bernstein

Email at mbernstein@oregonian.com; 503-221-8212

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