Stephen Paul Riley, 41, pled guilty in Wichita Falls, Texas today to shooting an airplane from the ground. His hearing was held in the federal district courtroom in Wichita Falls.
Sentencing for Riley is set for May 21 in federal court before U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor, according to a release from the U.S. attorney's office in Dallas.
A pilot flew his cropdusting aircraft over property next to the Flying Lead Ranch owned by Riley on Feb. 22, 2008, according to an article in the Jan. 30 edition of the Wichita Falls Times Record News newspaper.
The aircraft was struck with several bullets which struck the rudder cable and the V-strut bar.
A hole was also discovered in the aircraft's left rear wing and indentations found on the left side of the cropduster.
Documents filed in the case stated Riley made threats in person and by phone that he would shoot down any cropdusting aircraft that flew over his hunting ranch.
The targeted aircraft was leased by Keeter Aerial Spraying of Olney, Texas at the time it was attacked.
The investigation leading to Riley's guilty plea today actually started in August 2010 when officials with Texas Parks and Wildlife sought evidence of illegal hunting. The search warrant for Riley's property instead unearthed a disc containing video footage of Riley firing about 23 shots at another Keeter aircraft spraying the same field in July 2007.
Riley admitted to a Texas Ranger that he fired at Keeter aircraft on several occasions.
Attempted murder charges have also been filed against Riley in connection with airplane shootings in North Texas.
U.S. Attorney Katherine Miller is the lead prosecutor in the case while the Texas Rangers and Texas Park and Wildlife Department are conducting the investigation.
The maximum punishment Riley is facing is 20 years in a federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
Riley reportedly is still out on bond.
Riley's ranch includes hunting deer, turkey and airplanes.
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