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Press Release

Coleman County, Texas, Man, Is Sentenced To 18 Months In Federal Prison And Ordered To Pay Nearly $300,000 In Restitution For Shooting At Crop Duster

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Texas

LUBBOCK, Texas — James R. Cate, 69, was sentenced late Friday afternoon, by U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings, to 18 months in federal prison and ordered to pay a total of $297,179 in restitution, following his guilty plea in November 2012 to a superseding information charging the federal felony offense of making a threat to an aircraft, announced U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas. Judge Cummings ordered that Cate, who resides near Talpa, Texas, surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on April 12, 2013.

According to documents filed in the case, on February 29, 2012, Cate, using a Ruger Number One, 25-06 caliber single shot rifle with a Redfield scope, shot a crop duster plane. At the time Cate shot the aircraft, it was flying over a field neighboring Cate’s land near Talpa, dusting crops. Before he actually shot the aircraft, Cate fired three rounds from the rifle into the air. Cate admits that he threatened the aircraft to frighten the pilot away from his crops.

The last round that Cate fired hit the propeller of the aircraft, penetrated the engine cowling traveling toward the rear of the plane, passed through the firewall and the spray hopper (which contained nearly 500 gallons of chemical used for the crop spraying), entered the cockpit where it fragmented into multiple pieces (at least one of which tore through the leg of the jeans the pilot was wearing), then into the rear fuselage, all of which caused damage to the aircraft.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration. Deputy Criminal Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Williams prosecuted.

Updated June 22, 2015