Shooting a Substation Transformer is a Federal Offense

A Utah man who chose to fire shots at a substation transformer has been indicted on a federal offense of destruction of an energy facility.

Injudicious choice of a target

Photo by: starmanseries

Photo by: starmanseries

57 year old Stephen Plato McRae of Escalante, Utah is charged with a federal offense of firing shots at the Garkane Energy Cooperative’s Buckskin substation transformer which left a transformer severely damaged and large portions of Kane and Garfield Counties without power for eight hours. According to the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Utah, on September 25th 2016 a witness to the investigation of the transformer shooting led authorities to a firearm belonging to McRae which was believed to have been used in the destruction of the substation transformer.

Up to 32 years and $750,000 for federal offense

18 U.S. Code § 1366 states “Whoever knowingly and willfully damages or attempts or conspires to damage the property of an energy facility in an amount that in fact exceeds or would if the attempted offense had been completed, or if the object of the conspiracy had been achieved, have exceeded $100,000, or damages or attempts or conspires to damage the property of an energy facility in any amount and causes or attempts or conspires to cause a significant interruption or impairment of a function of an energy facility, shall be punishable by a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both.” Beyond the possibility of 20 years in federal prison, McRae is also facing 10 years in prison for illegal possession of a firearm and two years for possession of a controlled substance. Along with a possible combined prison sentence of 32 years, McRae also faces fines totaling up to $750,000.

Federal offense vs state offense

Federal Offense = Federal Prison

Photo by: Aaron Bauer

Destruction of an energy facility which is defined by 18 U.S. Code § 1366 as “a facility that is involved in the production, storage, transmission, or distribution of electricity, fuel, or another form or source of energy, or research, development, or demonstration facilities relating thereto, regardless of whether such facility is still under construction or is otherwise not functioning (. . . )” is considered a federal offense and those found guilty will face time in federal prisons located outside the state of Utah. Although shooting at a transformer was obviously a foolish choice, it may be difficult distinguishing what constitutes a federal crime and what is considered by the State of Utah to be criminal mischief. Utah Code 76-6-106 states: “A person commits criminal mischief if the person ( . . . )recklessly causes or threatens a substantial interruption or impairment of any critical infrastructure.” Critical infrastructure can involve many systems including “any public utility service, including the power, energy, and water supply systems”. Anyone facing state or federal charges is encouraged to seek counsel from a reputable criminal defense attorney.

Intentional Child Abuse Charges for Utah Mom Who Locked Son in Bathroom for a Year

A southern Utah mom is facing intentional child abuse charges after authorities discovered she had been keeping her 12 year old son locked in a bathroom for over a year.

Neglected basic needs of a child

Photo by : Purgatory Correctional Facility

Photo by : Purgatory Correctional Facility

Authorities responded to a welfare check at a southern Utah home after a dramatically underweight and malnourished 12 year old boy was brought into the local hospital by his father. Police obtained a warrant and searched the home of the boy’s mother, 36 year old Brandy Jaynes of Toquerville, Utah. There were three children who were living in the home with Jaynes; two of the children appeared to be in normal health while police found evidence that the emaciated boy who was brought into the hospital had been living in a locked bathroom among his own feces ,with no light and little to no food.

Intentional child abuse

Photo by: C.P.Storm

Photo by: C.P.Storm

The 36 year old mother of three was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on a $10,000 bail and is facing up to 15 years in prison for second degree intentional child abuse. According to Utah Code 76-5-109, “any person who inflicts upon a child serious physical injury ( . . . ) is guilty of an offense as follows: If done intentionally or knowingly, the offense is a felony of the second degree. “ This section defines seriously physical injury as “injuries that:

(A) seriously impairs the child’s health;

(B) involves physical torture;

(C) causes serious emotional harm to the child; or

(D) involves a substantial risk of death to the child.

Serious physical injury includes: ( . . . ) any conduct toward a child that results in severe emotional harm, severe developmental delay or intellectual disability, or severe impairment of the child’s ability to function; ( . . . ) any conduct that results in starvation or failure to thrive or malnutrition that jeopardizes the child’s life.”

Locked away and forgotten

Aggravated Intentional Child Abuse

Photo by: Joel Penner

Investigators are attempting to piece together information surrounding this family and the public is demanding to know why no one had checked on the boy earlier. By the time his father took him to receive medical treatment, the boy weighed 30 pounds and could not stand and support his own weight. The 12 year old boy had been taken out of school over a year prior to the search on the Toquerville Utah home yet neither school officials, neighbors, family, nor friends had apparently inquired of the boy’s whereabouts. One of the siblings admitted to knowing their brother was in the bathroom and had spoken to him through the door, but it had been months since they last spoke. It is not known where the father of the boy was during the boy’s bathroom imprisonment, and whether or not he had any knowledge of the circumstances his son had been living in for an extended period of time.

Mindset of a troubled parent

Photo by: Porsche Brosseau

Photo by: Porsche Brosseau

Police are understandably concerned with the irrational thinking of the mother who claimed the malnourished boy wanted to sleep in the bathroom and that she felt she was keeping him safe in the locked room while she was away from the house. Although the boy was obviously neglected and living in horrible circumstances, the mother was keeping an eye on him. There was Wi-Fi enabled video monitoring that was streaming to the mother’s cell phone, as well as a baby monitor that could transmit messages from the mother to her son. There are residents that live near the home that claim the area has a high volume of drug use, however authorities have not answered this speculation with any information regarding whether or not the mother was using illegal drugs. It has also not been divulged whether or not the 36 year old has a history of mental illness, or whether or not the boy had special needs that the mother was unable to cope with, however a mental illness would help make this story of intentional child abuse easier to swallow than a mother who intentionally neglected her child to near starvation. More information on the case is forthcoming.

Provo Utah Man Arrested for Enticing a Minor Online

A 25 year old Provo Utah man was arrested for enticing a minor online after a 13 year old girl he was talking to turned out to be an undercover police officer.

Sex sting

Enticing a Minor

Photo by: Sage Ross

Nicholas Randy Lewis, a married student at BYU in Provo Utah was arrested earlier this month for enticing a minor after he was caught in a sex sting set up by Utah Valley Special Victim’s Task Force to catch online predators. Lewis had been chatting inappropriately for six months with someone who told him she was a 13 year old girl, when in fact it was an undercover officer. Lewis reportedly had sexually explicit conversations with the fake teen and sent her numerous pornographic photos of himself. Twice Lewis asked to meet the girl for sex and although he never actually showed up, he made the plans to engage in sexual activity with the minor which is known by Utah law as enticing a minor.

Enticing a minor

Utah Code 76-4-401 defines enticing a minor as “when the person knowingly uses the internet or text messaging to solicit, seduce, lure, or entice a minor, or to attempt to solicit, seduce, lure, or entice a minor, or another person that the actor believes to be a minor, to engage in any sexual activity which is a violation of state criminal law. “ Lewis is now facing multiple felonies for:

Dealing material harmful to a minor. This is in reference to the pornographic images he sent to someone he thought was a minor.

Enticing a minor since Lewis made the plans to engage in sexual activities with the teen, regardless of whether or not he ever intended to show up.

His inappropriate conversations online that he thought were secretive may have cost him years of freedom as well as thousands in fines.

Conversation starter

Photo by: Howard Kang

Photo by: Howard Kang

Whenever someone is arrested through a sting, there are several questions that come up. Utah Code 76-4-401 states, enticing a minor happens “when the person knowingly uses the internet or text messaging to initiate contact with a minor.” So who originally initiated the online conversation between Lewis and the fictitious teenage girl? Did he intentionally locate and make contact with someone he believed was a minor or did he just continue chatting with someone that sought him out first? Would he have had the same conversations with someone who was of legal age? Is the 25 year old married student with no criminal record really a predator or just someone who talked inappropriately to the wrong person?


According to Utah law, an officer cannot induce or persuade a person to commit a crime, especially if they would not have been likely to do so anyway. Utah Code 76-2-303 states that “entrapment occurs when a peace officer or a person directed by or acting in cooperation with the officer induces the commission of an offense in order to obtain evidence of the commission for prosecution by methods creating a substantial risk that the offense would be committed by one not otherwise ready to commit it. “ However, under Utah law, giving someone the chance to commit a crime or as 76-2-303 calls “affording a person an opportunity to commit an offense does not constitute entrapment.”

Be represented

Photo by: frankieleon

Photo by: frankieleon

For those facing charges such as enticing a minor, contact an attorney immediately especially when the charges came about following a sting set up by police. The penalties for enticing a minor can range from a class C misdemeanor to a second degree felony, depending on what sexual activity the person was trying to entice the minor to engage in. With anywhere from three months to 15 years in jail on the line and the questionable gray area regarding police entrapment, it is recommended to speak with a criminal defense attorney about the case to ensure that the defendant is being treated fairly and that their rights are not being violated.