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Sun, Jul 06, 2008

Florida Pilot Cleared In Alleged Case Of 'Taxiway Rage'

Accused Of Attempting To Run FBO Employee In Golf Cart Off Taxiway With Plane

The pilot of a Piper Navajo Chieftain that reportedly attempted to chase an FBO employee in a golf cart off a taxiway in Leesburg, FL has been cleared of charges by local prosecutors.

According to the Leesburg Daily Commercial, local businessman and realtor Neil Fischer had been charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and stalking from the alleged incident where he reportedly taxied his aircraft only five feet behind a golf cart driven by accuser Keith Franklin, an employee of Sunair Aviation.

Prosecutors announced they would not pursue charges last week because the case lacked sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

"Proving the victim's fear of imminent harm would be challenging at best," stated Assistant State Attorney Melissa Pendergrass in a document on the case.

Pendergrass added the alleged victim also waited 11 days to report the incident to police.

Fischer, 52, of Leesburg, and owner of one of Lake County's largest real-estate firms and a partner in Triangle Aviation, said he was the victim of a "false arrest." Fischer vowed to review his "legal options" after the charges had been dropped.

"I'd never been arrested before in my life and I've been in business here for 27 years," he said.

Fischer’s lawyer, Michael Graves felt Leesburg police should have been more thorough before his client’s arrest, including interviewing the three passengers aboard the aircraft.

"It's unfortunate that Mr. Graves and Mr. Fischer feel that way," said Leesburg police Lt. Rob Hicks. "We did what we're supposed to do."

Franklin's accusation was backed up by two other witnesses including Sunair owner Brian Sapp, but according to Pendergrass, because they worked with Franklin at Sunair and had past problems with Fischer, their credibility could have been an issue in court.

Though Fischer admits he was at the airport that day, departing to pick up his parents in Georgia, he contends he never saw Franklin during his time on the field. Fischer noted there had been an ongoing issue between him and Franklin stemming from Franklin parking in front of a trash bin at Fischer’s business in December, requiring Fisher to pay $75 for garbage collectors to return and empty it.

Fischer also added there was turmoil between Triangle Aviation and Sunair over competition in selling fuel at the airport and also accusations of illegal aircraft charters by Fischer.

Sapp denied Wednesday there was contention between Sunair and Triangle Aviation. He added while he did see the plane behind the golf cart, he never saw or told detectives how close the plane was.

FMI: www.leesburgflorida.gov/Police, www.triangleaviation.com, www.sunairaviation.com



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