FARGO — North Dakota's U.S. attorney is not happy with a judge's decision to sentence a Fargo man to four days in jail for his conviction on a charge of attempting to derail a BNSF freight train in May.
"While we respect the judge in this matter, we take strong exception to a sentence that allows the defendant to walk free, avoiding the applicable guideline sentence of 2-2 1/2 years in federal prison," U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley said Friday, Feb. 19, in a statement.
The statement referenced a decision by U.S. District Judge Peter Welte to sentence Skylar Dayne Goodman, 19, of Fargo to four days' incarceration followed by three years of supervised release for his convictions on charges of attempting to derail a BNSF train and attempting to obstruct an official proceeding.
Judge Welte also ordered Goodman to pay $3,124 in restitution to the railroad.
According to the statement released by Wrigley:
A BNSF train was traveling from Breckenridge, Minn., to Black Thunder Mine in Wyoming in early May when it approached a crossing one mile west of Casselton, N.D., at which point it encountered a "rough track."
The crew on the train immediately reported the rough track, and later that evening a train inspector discovered a device called a re-railer on the track, which is a tool used to place a train back on the track after a derailment, but which is also capable of causing a train to derail.
A re-railer is typically painted bright yellow in the event it is inadvertently left on the track. The one found on the track that evening in 2020 was spray-painted black.
An investigation by BNSF and the FBI revealed that Goodman placed the device on the track, and after his arrest, an acquaintance made a statement to law enforcement that appeared to exonerate Goodman.
Further investigation revealed the witness was threatened by Goodman into fabricating a story.
"This defendant planned and attempted a serious attack on critical infrastructure and human life and then he obstructed the federal investigation," Wrigley said.
A federal prosecutor said last fall after Goodman was charged that a person charged with such a crime could face up to 20 years in prison and if people were on the train the sentence could be enhanced to life in prison.
In December 2013, about 1,500 residents of Casselton had to evacuate their homes after a derailment outside the town caused a fiery explosion. An oil train struck a grain train that had derailed about a half mile west of the central Cass County town.
The explosion sent a ball of fire into the air before plumes of black smoke cast a long shadow over the city.