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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Texas

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ranch Owner In Young County Sentenced To 10 Years In Federal Prison For Shooting A Crop-Dusting Aircraft Flying Near His Ranch

Multiple Bullets Struck and Damaged Aircraft

WICHITA FALLS, Texas — Stephen Paul Riley, 41, of Olney, Texas, was sentenced this morning by U.S. District Judge Reed C. O’Connor, in federal court in Wichita Falls, Texas, to 120 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $3600 in restitution, following his guilty plea in January 2013 to an Indictment charging one count of destruction of an aircraft. Riley has been in federal custody since his arrest on May 10, 2013, for violating the conditions of his pretrial release. Today’s announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.

According to documents filed in the case, at approximately 11:40 a.m., on February 22, 2008, as a pilot flew his crop-dusting aircraft over property adjacent to the Flying Lead Ranch (FLR), a commercial hunting and residential property owned and occupied by Riley, Riley shot the aircraft with a firearm, striking it with multiple bullets and damaging the aircraft. One bullet struck the rudder cable and nearly severed it. A bullet or bullet fragment also struck the V-strut bar, approximately one and one-half inches from the connector bolt. Bullets, or bullet fragments, caused a hole in the aircraft’s left rear wing and indentations on the plane’s left side. The bullet holes and other damage indicated that the aircraft had been shot by someone on the ground discharging a firearm upward into the air. The aircraft was leased by Keeter Aerial Spraying, of Olney, for commercial crop-dusting services in Texas and Oklahoma.

Documents filed further state that prior to the above-stated date, Riley threatened Keeter’s owner, both in person and by phone, that he would shoot down any crop-duster that flew over his hunting ranch. In August 2010, officials with Texas Parks and Wildlife, seeking evidence of illegal hunting, executed a search warrant at the FLR and discovered a disc that contained video footage of Riley firing approximately 23 shots at another Keeter aircraft spraying the same field in July 2007. In September 2010, when questioned by a Texas Ranger, Riley admitted to shooting at Keeter aircraft on more than one occasion, as he had threatened to do.

The case was investigated by the Texas Rangers and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Miller prosecuted.

Updated June 22, 2015