My Grandfather Sentenced To 18 Months/300k For Protecting His Farm! Please Help!Submitted by undyingsound on Sun, 03/10/2013 - 06:28
“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: