New York man pleads not guilty to stalking woman by plane for four years

A New York man has pleaded not guilty to charges of stalking a woman by flying his small plane over her home.

Michael Arnold, 65, was arraigned in southern Vermont – where he kept his plane – on charges of aggravated stalking, violating an abuse prevention order, resisting arrest, impeding a public 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 300 feet (91 meters) from her home and business, as well as from all airplanes.

Arnold had been stalking the Schuylerville, New York, woman for approximately four years, an FBI agent said. A stalking order was in place banning him from flying. New York authorities say Arnold was spotted flying low over the village of Schuylerville and at one point was observed throwing tomatoes from the plane, according to the investigating officer in Bennington, Vermont.

The woman told police that she feared for her safety for a long time and worried that Arnold was going to fly his plane into her home, court papers state. She told local media that Arnold was a customer in the cafe she owns.

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Arnold was arrested Tuesday as he was arriving at the William H. Morse state airport in Bennington, Vermont, where he kept his 1976 Cessna 180 single-engine plane. He said he had not stalked anyone and denied that he was flying his plane the day before, saying instead that he was riding with someone, police said. According to the affadavit, Arnold told the officer that he had had no contact with the woman and that if he had wanted to harm her he could have done so very easily, but never did.

He said the Federal Aviation Administration had not told him he could not fly and that he flew over Schuylerville to take pictures for their Facebook community page, according to the affidavit. Schuylerville is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of the Bennington airport.

On 30 May, a judge in Saratoga, New York, town court issued a temporary order of protection for Arnold to stay away from the woman, her home, business and place of employment, according to a police affidavit. He was ordered to not contact her and to refrain from harassing, intimidating, threatening or otherwise interfering with her, her family or household members and witnesses to the alleged offense, the affidavit said.

Arnold is also required to stop flying any aircraft under the order, which remains in effect until a court date of 30 November.