Crop duster plane. Courtesy photo
Weilding a Ruger Number One 25-06 caliber single shot rifle with a Redfield scope, James R. Cate, 68, shot a crop duster plane as it flew over a field neighboring his land near Talpa, Texas dusting crops last February.
Before he actually shot the aircraft, Cate fired three rounds from the rifle into the air, according to documents filed in the case.
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), and then passed into the rear fuselage, all of which caused damage to the aircraft.
Cate appeared in federal court in Lubbock, Texas, Tuesday and pleaded guilty to the federal felony offense of making a threat to an aircraft.
He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration. Deputy Criminal Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Williams is in charge of the prosecution.