A New York man pleaded not guilty Thursday 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.
A stalking order was in place banning him from flying, according to an FBI agent, who said Arnold had been stalking the Schuylerville, New York, woman for approximately four years. 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.
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. Arnold told the officer that he has had no contact with the woman and that if he wanted to harm her he could have very easily, but he never did, according to the affidavit.
He said the Federal Aviation Administration had not told him he couldn’t fly and said he flies 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 May 30, 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 Nov. 30.
He was arrested in New York on June 1 for stalking, resisting arrest, disobeying a court order and obstruction of governmental administration, according to the affidavit. He faces pending charges, including one felony count, in New York.
A sergeant with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office said he had seen Arnold’s plane flying over Schuylerville on Oct. 1, and was investigating where Arnold had been keeping his plane, according to the affidavit. An FBI agent said Arnold had relocated his plane to an airport in Maine and that the police department there was also seeking charges but Arnold left the area before he could be arrested, police said.
Last month, the woman reported to the FBI that Arnold was flying over her area on Sept. 28 and she provided video of the plane. The Federal Aviation Administration located a plane landing at the Bennington Airport shortly after the sighting, according to the police affidavit.
Staff at the Bennington Airport said the plane had arrived at the airport on Sept. 26 or 27, according to court papers. The airport provided video to police of Arnold flying his plane alone out of the airport on Sunday and heading west toward the Schuylerville area, according to the affidavit.
Arnold told police that he had been flying for 45 years and was selling his plane because he is losing his eyesight.
Rathke reported from Marshfield, Vt.