49 votes

My Grandfather Sentenced To 18 Months/300k For Protecting His Farm! Please Help!

“And the truth shall set you free”

That is a quote we are all aware of. We have been taught that at a very young age that honesty is always the best policy, regardless of the consequences. But I am here to tell you that it isn’t always the case.

My Grandfather, James R. Cate, is a man who has always followed that logic. He is always honest, he is always giving, and he always gone out of his way to do for others. He is a good hearted, well principled man. Unfortunately, even with a lifetime track record of following these principles, he was made out to be something much worse on the day of March 8th 2013 when he made a mistake and used poor judgment.

My grandfather resides in Talpa, Texas and has been growing organic crops for a few years now. In his approach to become “certified organic” he must follow certain rules in order to obtain and preserve that title, one of them being pesticide-free for up to 7 years.

On February 29, 2012, my grandfather noticed a crop duster spraying pesticides over a neighboring field. Because of the rules and stipulations required for his crops to become certified organic; the pesticides the crop duster was spraying could not come in contact with my grandfather’s crops, otherwise his land would be compromised. In order to alert the pilot and frighten him away from his crops, he used a Ruger Number One, 25-06 caliber single shot rifle with a Redfield scope, and fired a few rounds into the air. The last round he fired ended up hitting the propeller of the aircraft and damaging the plane. The pilot was not injured.

After the incident, my grandfather being the honest man that he is, contacted 9-1-1 to report what had happened. He could have kept silent and not said anything at all, but that wouldn’t have been like him. He was charged with a federal felony offense of making a threat to an aircraft and pleaded guilty upon his court hearing.

On March 8, 2013 my grandfather attended court to receive sentencing. The defendant came prepared with cancelled checks which during trial we found were for the rental of multiple planes that were rented to continue his work while his main aircraft was in the shop for repairs. Interestingly enough, he did not have any invoices for the work that had been done, just the cancelled checks for what appeared to have paid for the excess planes he rented. This was curious because the crop duster only had one plane and not three that were damaged as a result of the gunshot.

Other cancelled checks were submitted for work that had been done on his plane due to an accident that had occurred in May following the shooting incident. Where he hit a power line and severely damaged his plane, which had nothing to do with my grandfather. The prosecution then proceeded to belittle my grandfather’s organic farm by saying that he is complaining about “a little pesticide being sprayed” on “a mere 17 acres of organic oats” and “42 sheep” on this “retirement hobby” land as if it should not be of anyone’s concern. And then that his PH.D in Science was inferior education to the physics analytics that were present in the bullet’s flight, therefore his random shots had to have been intended to hit the pilot. They also made it sound like my grandfather’s land (which was inherited by my grandmother when her mother passed away) was a hand-out and he somehow led a silver-spoon fed lifestyle. Which is not the case, I will have you know, that my grandfather’s dad died when he was 39 of heart disease, my grandfather was 18 years of age.

My grandfather put himself through college with the help of grants, scholarships and hard work and the hard work of my grandmother (his wife) working to help with living expenses and assist with putting him through school. He received $25/month from his mother because she was now a single mother raising three children on a limited income. There were never any handouts. He is a hardworking and honest American with no history of criminal background.

There had been an investigation performed by the Texas Department of Agriculture that had stated something to the affect that the chemicals found on his crops (yes, there was chemicals on his crops) that the determination could not be proven whether or not it was a result of the pilot’s crop dusting that day…yet he was the only one who could have done such a thing.

Keep in mind, there are multiple cases with this particular pilot damaging the land of others when it comes to spraying these chemicals as well as, numerous accounts of reckless flying, taking down power lines and causing fires. This isn’t his first rodeo. He is known by many around the area for his reckless endangerment of others and total disregard for people and/or their property. With all the past negative history associated with Steven Ballard Crop Dusting (Steven Ballard, the pilot in question) and the fact that this man is still able to fly and continues to cause damage around him, it can only be speculated but not proven that this particular person is either extremely lucky or he has friends in high places. Only speculation on my part because it just doesn’t seem feasibly possible. I get too many traffic tickets and I lose my license. With that said, who really knows with the current situation of our legal system…this kind of stuff isn’t uncommon and happens daily. It is no longer whether or not you are innocent or guilty, it is whether or not you have the means to pay enough money to ensure you win the game…we call the “legal system”.

My grandfather was sentenced to 18 months in prison and is required to pay $300,000 in restitution. He is 69 years old, has been married to his wife for 48 years. He has two boys and 3 grandchildren. He is unable to carry or be around firearms for the rest of his life. His freedom and his livelihood have been taken away. Yes, he made a mistake and should pay for his mistake. I ask, how does this punishment fit the crime?
I am writing this in hopes that anyone, whether you are a farmer, lawyer, father, grandson, etc. will read this and share it with people you know. Because this is a federal case, there is a 10 day window to appeal and since the appeal is pretty expensive, I have thought about starting some sort of fundraiser to pay the legal fees for an appeal. I have been doing my own research and I have found multiple cases that have been won due to property rights being violated, along with various Supreme Court over rulings. Another interesting fact is that Texas law permits the use of force when an owner’s property is being violated. I wouldn’t move forward with this if I didn’t feel like we had a chance to fix the injustice that lay upon my grandfather. I am certain that this happens on a day-to-day basis across the country. It is not right, it is unfair, and it cannot continue.

My grandfather doesn’t mind sitting in prison for the 18-month term. In fact, he even said that it would give him time to compose a novel since that has always been a dream of his. He is ashamed of his actions and is accepting the punishment for those actions. However, paying the absurd amount of $300,000 is unsettling to him, me, and anyone who has heard his case. He is hesitant to file an appeal because of the additional expenses as well as the doubt of an overturned ruling. I do not have those reservations. I believe that with enough support, a well-versed lawyer, and a dash of faith we can get this case reexamined and hopefully overturned.

Here are links from newspapers about his case:




Trending on the Web

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

SOme questions

Did your dad already plead guilty or did he just give an admission? If he simply admitted to the act of shooting the gun, but did not sign a guilty plea, he should fight the charge, dispute that he had any intent, and convince the jury that the prosecution is administering the law improperly. Does Texas allow defense lawyers to propose Jury Nullification to a jury? Even though your father did commit the act, he can fight the charge of felony crime and get a jury. He deserves a trial by a jury for any such criminal proceeding, I would believe.

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." George Washington

Sorry, firing a gun into the air, with the intention of NOT

hitting something is entirely irresponsible and reckless.

That bullet has to come down somewhere.

Does he know where?

Can he reasonably control where?


That's reckless endangerment of his neighbors.

He should have tried to find out who the crop duster was and who's farm was being sprayed and stop it that way.

I'm not sure the sentence he received is appropriate, but his actions do warrant legal recourse.

This is another lie. Firing a gun in the air is NOT that...

This is another lie. Firing a gun in the air is NOT that dangerous if the gun is pointed mostly up and not just to one side or the other.

If a bullet is allowed to deplete and expend all of its initial "fired" velocity in the air then it merely falls, tumbling more/less harmlessly back to earth with very little force and while being slowed and hindered by continual wind resistance.

If you drop a penny from a tall building it does not become increasingly more dangerous as it falls. This is a total myth.

Same thing is true of a bullet that has lost all of its initial propulsion, effectively stopped in mid air and begins to tumble harmlessly end over end back to earth.



It was stated, clearly, more than once, that the farmer admitted his mistake, and is willing to serve his sentence. The railroading about the money with the big scam being pulled, is unacceptable. You think, If I wrecked my truck, for work, I should get three to replace it? I am sure my insurance company would disagree. Then, in the end, there is a loophole that would protect this man, from inscrutable pilots, spraying with abandon? His integrity is challenged, because there are chemicals on his organic crops! So, now, he cannot sell them at the higher price commanded by such crops! What else can be taken?! The man needs a victory about this, in court. But, we have the "American Injustice" system, instead, destroying his inheritance, to his kids!

Our justice system has become the rich man's game. It is not what our founding fathers imagined! Things have changed. But, it appears the pilot has committed fraud, aided by the "justice" system.

Since he is claiming to be an organic farm, he has to maintain the crops, free of the chemicals, the damned pilot was spraying, near his land. There should be a separate case involving this, verified, problem. Instead, they say the farmer is being dishonest about chemicals being on his organic produce?! I think it sucks. Being not rich, means we don't deserve justice any more? Sorta feels real bad to me! Believe me, I was rich and now am poor, yet richer, now that I am poor!

Appeal and get a better lawyer

It should cost less than $300,000.

sorry about pop.

His actions were not the greatest. Sorry you dont go shooting like that now days. Pop found out why us liberty lovers are not big fans of the Nazi police! Very costly education.

he was doing just fine and defending his livelihood...

til he told on himself.. its a little late now...

Think for yourself......Question authority...

Context will help!


Positive support for Ron Paul ideas! Support from the Restoration and Liberty Movement on http://cristianpaduraru.com

just another reason to remove unconstitutional felon

registration.sentences are there for punishment for a crime, once the sentence is served, they are no longer criminals.any registration or anything like it makes it cruel and unusual punishment, however, people do not realize it until it happens to them.

I am back

I will start by making it clear that i am not taking sides with the pilot. As a spray pilot myself I have some questions.

Did The airplane fly back to runway or go down in a field?

If i can get a better idea of damage to the airplane that would help. If it was a turbine powered airplane and he hit the propeller it could cost as much as $50,000 - $60,000 to replace prop. If he flew it back to the runway there would be a huge amount of vibration that would due damage to the bearings and rotating parts in engine. The turbine parts turn at 30,000 - 60,000 RPM all depends what eng he had on plane.
To overhaul the eng it can cost any ware from $100,000 to $250,000.

I would be glad to look at the paper work that has the damage to the airplane and tell you if it is close to fair.

I am a aircraft mechanic and pilot.

As for the post that spray pilots are all about the bottom line he is wrong. Some pilots give the rest of us a bad name. If i was all about the bottom line I would spray the field all at one time, but no i will go back to some fields 3 or 4 times to clean up when the wind is right.

I have an organic farm in my area. I have met with them and let them know that I am not there to harm there land, we have a good relationship. I will call ahead to let them know that i will be by them. Of coarse the wind is right and they can witness me not drifting on there land.

For the comment that hitting power lines is reckless is not true.
No ag pilot wants to hit a wire it kills more than any thing else.
if we fly high across the field then our drift goes farther.

If the pilot used bills from another accident that is wrong.
I could go on and on with stories, like the pilot that had a person say that they get sick when the plane is in the area. The pilot wanted to prove that it was not what he was doing. He had his plane cleaned out with cleaner and tested. filled it up with water and tested the water. Flew to the field, the wind blowing away from the house across the road. sprayed out the load. Yep you guessed it the family got sick from the airplane!!!!!! Go figure. I think it is the yellow paint.
like i said there are a few pilots that make a bad name for the rest of us. I for one take great pride in my profession, and don't want to harm anyone. Due on to others, like you want done on to you. And that gets boo's at a republican debate. Go Figure!!!!

Give me some info and i will see if it is over the going rate (rent repairs).
As for shooting an airplane that was wrong and you grandfather has taken responsibility for that, he is an man of values.

scawarren's picture

Since your grandfather

Since your grandfather pleaded guilty I don't know that there is much that can be done on that part but maybe there is a possibility that your family could sue the pilot in civil court for crop damage? Just an idea, good luck to you.

It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled. – Mark Twain

Guilty Pleaded

Don't ever do this. Don't talk to the cops. DO NOT TRUST LAW ENFORCEMENT! "Anything you say can and WILL be used against you in a court of law" This is no BS. The law does not forgive, it punishes. Never admit that you have done wrong.

I wish this was not true. I wish I lived in the USA I learned about as a kid. I wish the Constitution was the law of the land. I wish my State had the right to govern it's self.

I wish the fairy tales were true.

All he can really due at this

All he can really do at this point is sue for damage to his crops.

ChristianAnarchist's picture

Guilty Plea

Guilty plea is hard to reverse. Almost impossible really. This may be one of those times it's best to let him write his book and he will probably be out in less than 12. As far as the 300k, you can't squeeze blood out of a turnip. If he doesn't have it, they can't collect it. If he does have it, they will take it. As to shooting at an airplane, as a pilot I can say there's not much chance the pilot even saw your grandfather on the ground much less saw him shooting at him so I really don't see what your grandfather was trying to prove. It was a very stupid and dangerous act. The chances that a pilot would have any idea that someone was trying to get them to change their course is about a million to one...

Beware the cult of "government"...

i would suggest spraying poison

on someone is worth a bullet.
if it's that confusing for the pilot maybe we should consider whether chemicals should be sprayed at all.

"The two weakest arguments for any issue on the House floor are moral and constitutional"
Ron Paul

The old...

clashes with the new. But maybe waving a couple red flags vigorously would have been more appropriate. Of course crop dusters are all about he bottom line and getting it done and getting it done quick.

God forgives always. Man forgives sometimes. But Nature never forgives.

Red flags? One has a natural

Red flags? One has a natural and fundamental right to protect and defend their life, liberty, and property.

My first question...

is this the first we're hearing about this... at the Daily Paul?


Concerned Daily Paul Readers Everywhere who now have a voice (you're welcome)

um, 1st thing that comes to my mind is, why did he plead guilty?

???! He didn't make a threat to an aircraft--he was simply wanted to get the pilot's attention as he was spraying to close to the land. I think that was your grandfather's mistake

Not good

Let me preface by saying that I don't agree that the punishment fits the crime. That fine is excessive unless your grandfather was being malicious and the sentence seems excessive as well.

However, it seems to me that your grandfather violated the non-aggression principle. I don't think the pilot was intent to cause harm to your grandfather's property unless he was deliberately spraying his property. I assume this is a case where overspray would cause damage to the property and impair his income for at least a period of 7 years. The smart move would have been for your grandfather to document the contamination and bring a lawsuit against the pilot. The purpose of civil court is to remedy the inequity caused by others against us. The pilot destroyed your grandfather's farm and source of income. A lawsuit could have been filed seeking restitution for the lost income and cost of repair to his farm.

I'm not sure any kind of stand your ground law will help this case because if it can be shown that the pilot was not acting in a direct aggressive manner towards the property, then the use of force would not be justified.

I'm doubtful you would be able to appeal the ruling of the criminal case, but perhaps something can be done about the sentence handed out after the fact. That sentence seems cruel and unusual. Talk to a criminal defense attorney and see if the fine or imprisonment can be reduced. In other words, don't appeal the conviction, appeal the sentence.


Umm, no.

Hit the propeller? It takes either pretty clear intent to aim at the plane, or just recklessness. Had he waited until the plane was close enough to hear the shot itself, while the bullet was aimed away from the plane, that would be one thing. I don't think your grandfather was handling the situation properly. It's a sad situation, but I don't think his actions are defensible.

Like to get some info

Hi I am an Aerial Applicator myself, i don't have much time right now my family is having dinner. I will get back to you yet tonight.


I look forward to it :)

Sorry to hear of your

Sorry to hear of your grandfathers troubles. There is nothing so terrible that the police cannot make it worse. Unfortunately for your grandfather he thought he still lived in a world that has been long gone for decades.

Stop calling the goddamned police folks you just support the police state when you do. Solve your own problems instead of passing it off to your oppressors who usually make it worse!

End The Fat
70 pounds lost and counting! Get in shape for the revolution!

Get Prepared!

Grandpa shoots a plane

Grandpa goes to jail. Is there something I'm missing here?
18 months seems like a relatively light sentence, all things considered.

πολλα γαρ πταιομεν απαντες ει τις εν λογω ου πταιει ουτος τελειος ανηρ δυνατος χαλιναγωγησαι και ολον το σωμα

There a few things you are

There a few things you are missing here. Either way, thanks for commenting.

I read the entire post, thoroughly, and more than once.

Grandpa got pissed and took a few potshots at an airplane. One of those rounds hit the plane. He could have hit the pilot, in fact, the list of terrible things that could have happened because of Grandpa's reckless behavior is too long to mention. What am I leaving out? Oh yeah, you believe that a terrible injustice has been done and are considering a fund raiser.

I'm sorry about your Grandpa, I know you love him very much and are going to miss him while he's in jail, be grateful he isn't going away for the rest of his life. The 300k is a bit ridiculous but that's the breaks.

My Pa was a great man too, and I miss him every day. When faced with a difficult decision or circumstance I often ask myself what my grandfather would have done. I can almost hear him now, "stand up like a man and take responsibility for your actions". I think your Grandpa and mine are a lot alike. We should endeavor to be more like them.

God bless you and your family during this trying time.

πολλα γαρ πταιομεν απαντες ει τις εν λογω ου πταιει ουτος τελειος ανηρ δυνατος χαλιναγωγησαι και ολον το σωμα


Was he by chance a member of the farm to consumer legal defense fund? http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/

Not to my knowledge. I

Not to my knowledge. I reached out to them anyway. I appreciate the link!