Pilot accused of chasing woman from small plane and throwing tomatoes at her


A New York man pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges he stalked a woman by flying his small plane over her home.

Michael Arnold, 65, was charged in southern Vermont, where he had his plane Charge of aggravated stalking, breaching an abuse prevention order, resisting arrest, obstructing an officer and providing false information to police. He was released on several conditions, including that he have no contact with the woman, not stalk her and stay 91 meters (300 feet) from her home and business and from any aircraft.

An FBI agent said Arnold had been stalking the Schuylerville, New York, woman for about four years. According to New York authorities, Arnold was spotted flying low over the village of Schuylerville and was once seen throwing tomatoes from the plane, according to the investigator in Bennington, Vermont.

The woman told police she had long feared for her safety and feared Arnold would fly his plane into her home, court documents said. She told local media that Arnold was a guest at the cafe she owns.

Arnold was arrested Tuesday when he arrived at William H. Morse State Airport in Bennington, Vermont, where he kept his 1976 Cessna 180 single-engine airplane. He said he wasn’t chasing anyone and denied flying his plane the day before, instead saying he was riding with someone, police said. Arnold told the officer that he had no contact with the woman and that if he wanted to harm her, he could have easily done so, but he never did, the affidavit states.

He said the Federal Aviation Administration had not told him he could not fly and said he was flying over Schuylerville to take photos for their Facebook community page, the affidavit said. Schuylerville is located approximately 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Bennington Airport.

According to a police affidavit, on May 30, a judge in Saratoga, New York City Court issued a temporary protective order for Arnold to stay away from the woman, her home, her business and her workplace. He was instructed not to have any contact with her and not to harass, intimidate, threaten or otherwise disturb her, her family or household members, or any witnesses to the alleged crime, the affidavit said.

Arnold is also required to stop flying airplanes. The order will remain in effect until the Nov. 30 court date.

According to the affidavit, he was arrested June 1 in New York on charges of stalking, resisting arrest, disobeying a court order and obstructing governmental administration. He has pending charges in New York, including one felony count.

A sergeant with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office said he saw Arnold’s plane flying over Schuylerville on Oct. 1 and was investigating where Arnold kept his plane, the affidavit said. An FBI agent said Arnold moved his plane to an airport in Maine and police there also expected charges, but Arnold left the area before he could be arrested, police said.

Last month, the woman reported to the FBI that Arnold had flown over her area on Sept. 28, and she provided video of the plane. According to a police affidavit, shortly after the sighting, the Federal Aviation Administration located a plane landing at Bennington Airport.

According to court documents, Bennington Airport officials said the plane arrived at the airport on Sept. 26 or 27. According to the affidavit, the airport provided police with a video of Arnold leaving the airport alone in his plane on Sunday and flying west toward Schuylerville.

Arnold told police that he had been flying for 45 years and was selling his plane because he was losing his eyesight.

Rathke reported from Marshfield, Vt.

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