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Calhoun County Resident James Cate Sentenced For Shooting Crop Dusting Airplane

Joe Raedle, Getty Images

A Calhoun County man has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and to pay a hefty restitution after shooting at an airplane.

James R. Cate received the sentence late Friday afternoon, following his November 2012 guilty plea to a to federal felony offense of making a threat to an aircraft.

The 69-year-old Cate pleaded guilty to shooting a crop duster plane using a Ruger Number One 25-06 with a Redfield scope on February 29th, 2012.

The plane was reportedly dusting the crops of a field neighboring Cate’s land in Talpa, which is less than 20 miles west of Ballinger.

Cate has admitted that he fired three rounds from the rifle into the air in an attempt to scare the pilot away from his crops, and then shot the airplane.

The bullet 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 crop spraying chemicals, and into the cockpit, where it fragmented.

At least one of the bullet fragments tore through the leg of the jeans worn by the pilot.

In addition to the 18-month federal prison sentence, Cate has been ordered to pay nearly $297,200 in restitution.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Aviation Administration and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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