Idaho man shot up roadblocks, spurred by ‘anti-government’ ideals. He won’t go to jail

Meridian man shot and damaged two hydroelectric dams in Idaho Nearly a year ago, he was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution to Idaho’s largest utility.

District Judge B. Lynn Winmill sentenced Randy Vail, 59, to five years of probation and ordered him to pay nearly $550,000 to Idaho Power for damaging his equipment, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho.

Last June, Vail rode his motorcycle to the top of Hells Canyon Dam late at night and fired a rifle at electrical substations. An hour later he did the same at Brownlee Dam. Idaho Power said the shooting caused a brief power outage and damaged equipment.

After the shooting, Vail fled from Washington County sheriff’s deputies as they tried to arrest him. Charges related to that incident were dropped to avoid a double prosecution on the same charges, state officials told the Idaho Statesman.

Vail initially faced two counts of destroying an energy facility. He pleaded guilty to a single charge in March, while the second was dismissed at the prosecutor’s request. Each defendant faced a sentence of 20 years in prison.

Vail’s actions were motivated by “anti-law enforcement and anti-government sentiment,” according to the press release. While Vail was incarcerated, he told those close to him that the government was “illegitimate” and said he did not recognize the authority of judges, sheriffs, the governor or the federal government, according to the press release. Vail’s statements were made to family members in recorded calls.

“In Vail’s own words, he wanted to ‘make a statement’ and stated that ‘we need a revolution or a civil war,'” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit said in the news release that Vail’s actions endangered the power supply. He clarified that Vail was prosecuted for his illegal conduct, not for his beliefs, which officials said stemmed in part from reading and viewing conspiracy theories and anti-government propaganda online.

“This case shows that our way of life is threatened when people start to believe that ideology can somehow justify violence,” Hurwit said. “That’s never the case.”

Substations in North Carolina, Washington and Oregon were damaged in attacks last year. At one point, the Department of Homeland Security warned in a bulletin that “domestic violent extremists” were considering attacking power and communications infrastructure “as a means to create chaos and advance their ideological goals.”

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