Judge orders home confinement for Cedar Rapids man accused of interfering with train operations

Trial date has not yet been set

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A federal judge this week ordered monitoring and home confinement for a Cedar Rapids man, charged with using and interfering with radio transmissions for train operations, pending trial.

Randy W. Thompson, 55, was charged last month in U.S. District Court with interfering with dispatchers or other people while they were involved in railroad operations, a criminal complaint shows. He also made racial slurs and threats toward Union Pacific Railroad employees, the complaint states.

U.S. Chief Magistrate C.J. Williams also found during a hearing on Monday there is probable cause for the charge that accuses Thompson of making unauthorized radio transmissions over the railroad’s emergency communications lines that interfered with employees directing trains and could have resulted in a collision on the tracks.

Williams released Thompson from federal custody but he must wear a radio frequency ankle monitor and remain on home confinement pending trial. He is restricted to his home, except for work, school, religious services, medical and mental health treatments and court appearances. Thompson was ordered to have a mental health evaluation and follow any recommended treatment program.

The judge’s order also shows Thompson cannot have contact of any kind with employees or contractors of Union Pacific Railroad or another railroad, and he can’t have any equipment in his home that can be used to communicate or interfere with radio communications.

A trial hasn’t been set at this time.

Authorities started receiving information in March from Union Pacific Railroad that someone was making unauthorized transmissions over the railroad’s emergency radio communication lines, as employees attempted to direct trains on proper tracks coming in and out of Cedar Rapids, according to court documents.

Union Pacific Capt. Brian Daniell told investigators the suspect was transmitting dial tones and making strange noises over the radio frequencies, court documents show. He was concerned this interference could cause a collision between trains.

In March, railroad employees reported the unauthorized transmissions included comments about stealing a train, racial slurs and threats toward railroad employees, court documents show. The railroad reported more than 75 unauthorized transmissions over its frequency in Cedar Rapids were made from December 2016 through March 31 of this year.

During two different searches of Thompson’s apartment, authorities seized radio communications devices and other electronic equipment, according to court documents.

Following the searches, a railroad employee parked near the tracks at E Avenue NW, told authorities Thompson approached him, pointing an aluminum bat at him and said, “Come and get it if you guys hate me so much. You know who I am; I’m the radio man.”

Thompson also was charged last month in Linn County Associate District Court for shooting off fireworks on dates not allowed by law, a simple misdemeanor, a criminal complaint shows.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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