Man admits shooting at southern Utah power substation, causing lengthy outage in 2 counties

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SALT LAKE CITY — An Escalante man admitted in federal court Friday to shooting at a power substation, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and knocking out power in two southern Utah counties.

Stephen Plato McRae, 59, pleaded guilty to one count of destruction of an energy facility in a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office. Prosecutors dropped charges of possession of a firearm by a restricted person and possession of a controlled substance.

McRae fired shots into the cooling fins at the Buckskin substation in Kane County, rupturing the radiator piping and causing the unit to overheat and fail in September 2016. The damage knocked out power in Kane and Garfield counties for eight hours. Garkane Energy Cooperative spent $380,522 to repair the facility.

A confidential informant led investigators to McRae a month later. Kane County sheriff's deputies and FBI agents found the rifle and ammunition in containers at a location in Escalante.

McRae also admitted to damaging substations in San Juan County in 2015 and in Nevada's Humboldt and White Pine counties in 2016. Federal and local prosecutors agreed not file charges in those cases, but the incidents will be taken into consideration as part of his sentence.

The potential maximum penalty for destruction of an energy facility is 20 years in federal prison. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend McRae spend eight years behind bars.

McRae also faces three years of probation after his release, during which he agreed to not live or travel in the six counties — Kane, Garfield, Wayne, Juab, Iron and Washington — in which Garkane Energy Cooperative has facilities.

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.


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